Alcohol abstainers get some sobering news
Research suggests that giving up drinking entirely may lead to depression.
Wed, Oct 07, 2009 at 01:32 PM
Researchers in Norway recently made a surprising discovery that just may make you want to hit the bottle.
According to an article in Time, people who give up drinking entirely are at a higher risk for depression than people who drink regularly.
The researchers asked more than 38,000 people about their drinking habits over the past two weeks. They also asked participants questions to determine their levels of anxiety and depression.
What they found was surprising.
The study uncovered that while the top fifth percentile were the most anxious, those that abstained from alcohol completely were actually the most likely to be depressed.
For people who have given up alcohol for personal or health reasons, this may seem like a real downer, but the logic behind it makes sense.
The researchers, led by Jens Christoffer Skogen at the University of Bergen in Norway, came up with a couple of theories as to why abstainers are more depressed.
First, they found that those who completely gave up alcohol were more likely to be suffering from illnesses like osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, not exactly the most uplifting conditions to have. Plus, not surprisingly, people with chronic illnesses are more likely to be depressed.
Adding to that, "some people assume it's healthier not to drink," especially those that have a chronic illness, says Skogen.
Another possible explanation is that people who choose to give up alcohol entirely are those who were once alcoholics, so it makes sense that they would be more distressed than non-alcoholics because they’re battling with a serious illness.
Though this makes a lot of sense in theory, the researchers found that only 14 percent of their participants fell into this category, so they needed another reason.
After some more thought, the researchers came up with the most likely explanation – Occam’s Razor at its best.
The researchers concluded that abstainers often have fewer close friends than those who drink, even though non-drinkers attend organized social activities more often. That’s because people under the influence tend to spill more juicy information about themselves, which often leads to tighter bonds with people who they might not ordinarily get to know.
Just think about the last time you kicked back a few at a neighborhood barbecue and started a three-hour conversation with the neighbor you barely know. It’s easy to feel close to someone when they know your hopes, dreams – and the name of your first pet ferret.
Plus, not drinking while friends and colleagues are ordering double martinis can be a real bummer, making abstainers feel left out.
Of course, Skogen doesn’t feel that abstainers should necessarily start drinking. Obviously people who have decided not to drink should stick to their convictions as much as possible.
Instead, Skogen recommends that doctors may want to look into why abstainers are choosing not to drink in the first place and explain to them that it's totally normal to feel a little out of the loop in societies where drinking is common.