Glass of Wine a Day May Ward Off Depression
But, moderate drinking might also just be sign of normal social life, researchers add
WebMD News Archive
By Steven Reinberg
FRIDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) -- In the same way that a little wine may be good for the heart, it might also help avoid depression, a Spanish study suggests.
So while drinking a lot of wine or other alcohol may be a sign of depression or other mental health problems, alcohol in moderation may benefit mental health, the study authors contend.
"One drink a day, preferentially wine, may help prevent depression," said lead researcher Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, chair of the department of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Navarra, in Pamplona.
But several mental health experts not involved with the study had reservations about the findings. And the research only found an association between moderate drinking and emotional well-being; it didn't prove cause-and-effect.
Martinez-Gonzalez said he thinks the apparent benefit of wine in preventing depression may work the same way that moderate drinking helps prevent heart disease.
"Depression and heart disease seem to share some common mechanisms because they share many similar protective factors and risk factors," he said. However, he added that depression prevention is not a reason to start drinking.
"If you are not a drinker, please don't start drinking," he said. "If you drink alcohol, please keep it in the range of one or less drinks a day and consider drinking wine instead of other alcoholic beverages."
The report was published Aug. 30 in the online journal BMC Medicine.
Tony Tang, an adjunct psychology professor at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., said the new research "is consistent with other studies suggesting modest health benefits of very modest drinking."
But, Tang said other factors may be at work in the potential connection between wine and depression. He noted that compared to nondrinkers, those in the Spanish study who drank a moderate amount of wine were more likely to be married men who were also physically active.
Being single or divorced, living alone and being sedentary "are well-established risk factors of depression. Thus, perhaps the correlation between modest drinking and depression is a coincidence caused by these other known factors," he said.
"An adequate social life is the most important factor we know that protects people from depression," Tang said. "Perhaps not drinking is a sign of serious social isolation in Spain while drinking a glass of wine a day is simply a sign of having a normal social life."
For the study, researchers followed more than 5,500 light-to-moderate drinkers for up to seven years. All the participants were part of a large Spanish study on nutrition and cardiovascular health, and were between 55 and 80 years old.
None of the individuals had suffered from depression or had alcohol-related problems at the start of the study. Over seven years, with medical exams, interviews with dietitians and questionnaires, the researchers kept tabs on participants' mental health and lifestyle.