NTNU LogoAlcohol consumption and depression are always correlated. Many people claim to consume drinks to forget their miseries. But a new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and The University of Bergen claims that heavy drinkers as well as teetotalers apparently have higher levels of depression and anxiety than those who moderately drink.

Experts are not able to understand as to why teetotalers have high levels of depression and anxiety even though many studiesseem to have shown that. One such assumed theory by the experts is that the depression recorded in groups that include teetotalers may be because these groups may include people who quit drinking because of alcoholism. The results might be different if the abstainers who quit drinking could be excluded from the larger group of non-drinkers.

A team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the University of Bergen, a number of Norwegian public health organizations and Kings College, London went to test out this idea. Approximately 38,390 residents of a county in mid-Norway which apparently constitutes to about 41 percent of the county’s population were analyzed on their general physical and mental health along with their regular alcohol consumption over a two-week period. The team used information from this questionnaire. It was part of a larger, long-term study called HUNT, which has occasionally inspected the physical and mental health along with the well-being of the inhabitants of Nord- Trøndelag County since 1984.

Through this analysis, experts discovered that even when they eliminated those people who had quit drinking from the study, the universal finding was apparently true. Heavy drinkers as well as non-drinkers were apparently more likely to be depressed than moderate drinkers. It was seen that apparently 17.3 percent of abstainers accounted for anxiety whereas depression was reported among 15.8 percent. In contrast, supposedly the happiest people were those who drink moderately consume about two glasses of alcohol in a week, where a glass of alcohol stands for one bottle of beer, or a glass of wine or a shot of strong spirits.

The general health of the subjects was determined by the questionnaire which may explain the connection between depression and alcohol intake.

Eystein Stordal, an adjunct professor at NTNU’s Department of Neuroscience commented “We found on average that there were more people with physical complaints among the non-drinkers than in the other groups. These individuals are more likely to use medicines that mean they shouldn’t drink. But it may also be true that having such an illness increases a person’s tendency to be anxious or depressed.”

Experts also discovered that non-drinkers apparently reported to having fewer friends than drinkers which might be one of the reasons for them being depressed.

Stordal mentioned “We see that this group is less socially well-adjusted than other groups. Generally when people are with friends, it is more acceptable in Western societies to drink than not to drink. While the questionnaire recorded non-drinkers’ subjective perception of the situation, a number of other studies also confirm that teetotalers experience some level of social exclusion.”

Supposedly almost 12 percent of the survey participants depicted themselves as abstainers whereas another 22 percent were non-consumers. Apparently it was seen that alcohol abstainers were more often female and older. Also they reported to have more health issues than non-consumers and mid-range consumers.

The authors commented “In the case of depression, the odds of depression (in people who labeled themselves abstainers) were higher than even the heaviest alcohol consumers, In a society where use of alcohol is the norm, abstinence might be associated with being socially marginalized and at increased risk for mental disorders.”

The experts observed that since abstinence is more common in western societies as opposed to harmful drinking habits, the probable public health impact of these findings could be immense.

This study was published in the most recent issue of Addiction, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the Society for the Study of Addiction.