Is there really a ‘J-shaped’ curve in the association between alcohol consumption and symptoms of depression and anxiety? Findings from the Mater-University Study of Pregnancy and its outcomes*

Authors


  • *

    RA and DAL developed the study aim and design. WB, JN, MO and GW set up, and are responsible for, the conceptual development and continued management of the Mater-University Study of Pregnancy and its outcomes. RA wrote the first draft of the paper and DAL undertook the analysis. All authors contributed to the final version of the paper.

Rosa Alati
School of Population Health
The University of Queensland
1st Floor
Public Health Building Medical School
Herston
Queensland 4006
Australia
Tel: 07 33655281
Fax: 07 33655509
E-mail: r.alati@sph.uq.edu.au

ABSTRACT

Aims  To determine the nature of the association between alcohol consumption and symptoms of anxiety and depression in women.

Design  Prospective cohort study of women (n = 4527) who received antenatal care at a major public hospital (Mater Misericordiae Hospital) in South Brisbane between 1981 and 1984 and who have follow-up data on alcohol use, depressive and anxiety symptoms over a 14-year period.

Findings  At the 5-year follow-up there was a ‘J-shaped’ association between alcohol consumption and both symptoms of depression and of anxiety. However, at the baseline assessment and the 14-year follow-up alcohol consumption was linearly and positively associated with depressive symptoms with increasing prevalence of symptoms with greater consumption. At the 5-year follow-up the prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms among those who were abstainers at both baseline and 5-year follow-up was similar to that among those who had been previous drinkers and then become abstainers (P = 0.67). Similarly, the prevalence of these symptoms was the same at the 14-year follow-up comparing those who had been abstainers at baseline, 5-year and 14-year follow-up to those who had previously consumed alcohol but were then abstainers.

Conclusions  The nature of the association between alcohol consumption and symptoms of depression and anxiety may vary across their life course in women. Previous drinkers who become abstainers do not appear to be at any higher risk of symptoms of depression or anxiety compared to those who always abstained, suggesting that increased symptoms in abstainers at age 30 is not due to ‘sick quitters’. The association of high alcohol consumption with symptoms of depression and anxiety may be confounded by low income and smoking.

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