Research published Aug. 30 noted lower levels of depression with drinking “two to seven small glasses of wine per week.” I found it in – wait for it – Wine Spectator. The Spanish study also was reported on other medical news sites, however. And the report could be the loophole a drinker may use to avoid quitting, or the justification an ex-drinker may use to slip out of sobriety.
First, to credit the authors of the
study, the research followed more than 5,500 men and women over age
55 for seven years, specifically looking at amount and type of drink
and level of depression. “Moderate” drinkers of wine were found
to have lower levels of depression than either abstainers or
problematic drinkers. Lead author of the study, Miguel A.
Martínez-Gonzále of the University of Navarra in Spain explained,
“Problematic alcohol intake may be associated with depression not
only because of increased intake of ethanol but also because of other
alcohol-related unhealthy lifestyles or because of the social
environment surrounding problematic drinkers (job loss, family
problems, financial problems or other addictions). Any of these
circumstances may be a potential trigger for depression, even in the
absence of a specific detrimental role for ethanol.” (This link
connects to the university's news release.)
Other research from February this year
contradicts that message somewhat, noting that a third of depressive
episodes are tied to alcohol abuse of the disease of alcoholism and
the periods of depression are “different from depressive episodes
caused by other life events.” (See full article.) The
February study, lead by noted alcohologist Marc Schuckit of the
University of California, San Diego, focused on the problematic
drinkers avoided in the University of Navarra study.
Heavy drinking causes depression.
Light drinking alleviates depression. That seems to be the message.
The question on the table is how to distinguish between heavy and
light, and whether the individual can drink at all. Physicians
define light as 1.2 drinks per day, moderate as 2.2 drinks a day,
heavy as 3.5 drinks daily and abusive drinking was defined as 5.4
drinks a day.
Those with the disease of alcoholism have one choice: Zero drinks per day. Total abstinence is the only way to keep the disease in remission.
Experts have long known that heavy drinking can spur temporary
episodes of depression while many with alcohol
use disorders use alcohol to relieve depression. They
self-medicate. "I don't know that the average person realizes
that heavy drinking can induce mood problems," said
There is one additional
consideration, stemming from a Norwegian study, also from February.
“The evidence of the harmful effects of alcohol
outweighs data on the benefits of drinking,” a physician wrote in
an online issue of the journal Addiction.
In a critical analysis of the health-boosting, disease-preventing
characteristics of alcohol, Norwegian psychiatrist and addiction
researcher, Hans Olav Fekjær, notes in the journal, “Altogether,
the evidence for alcohol's ability to prevent diseases is
considerably weaker than that for alcohol causing several kinds of
harm.” (Full article.)
Fekjær also noted claims that moderate wine drinking has health
benefits. “Wine drinkers generally had more formal education,
better dietary and exercise habits and more favorable health status
indicators. Altogether, there is ample evidence that groups with
different drinking habits differ in several other ways than their
drinking, making it difficult to separate the effects of drinking
habits from other factors.”
Other evidence-based studies on diseases demonstrate increased
health risks with alcohol consumption. For example, Boston University's
study earlier this year (see related article)
concluded when it comes to cancer, “No amount of alcohol is
While there is observational data that light or moderate
drinkers have a reduced risk of several diseases which are
influenced by lifestyle factors, whether or not the lower risk is
due to alcohol is a more complicated issue. “Taken together, the
existing evidence does not seem to meet the criteria for inferring
causality. For almost all the diseases, we do not know of any
plausible biological mechanism explaining a preventive role for
alcohol. Alcohol's possible ability to prevent diseases should
probably not be considered as an established fact.
“The absence of definite knowledge leaves plenty of room for
wishful thinking, which we observe frequently on this topic,”
Don't drink the Kool-Aid … or in this
case, the wine. Consider other possible consequences of the "cure" for depression.
Scroll down for the replay of the Dr. Jeanette Gallagher show feature with Scott Stevens. Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore." Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud can be found on www.alcohologist.com, plus the interview with Scott Stevens at Christoph Fisher Books. Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK.