Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Alcohol abuse may lead to depression

In Brief

Alcohol abuse may lead to depression

Alcohol is one way that people with depression may attempt to "self-medicate," leading to concerns that they will become dependent on it. But a study using a sophisticated mathematical model suggests the reverse may also be true: alcohol abuse or dependence may cause depression.

Researchers in New Zealand analyzed data collected through the Christchurch Health and Development Study, a 25-year longitudinal study that followed 1,265 children from birth into young adulthood. For this analysis, the researchers identified 1,055 individuals whose records included information about mood and alcohol use at ages 18, 21, and 25.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that alcohol abuse or dependence often went hand-in-hand with major depression. But when they used a mathematical model to determine which problem developed first, they found that alcohol abuse or dependence increased risk of developing major depression, rather than the other way around.

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