Alterations in Alcohol Drinking Changes in Echo Depression Symptoms – Neuroscience News

Summary: A new study finds a correlation between changes in alcohol consumption and the ebb and flow of depression symptoms.

People who reported less alcohol consumption simultaneously noted reductions in depressive symptoms, while increased alcohol use was associated with increased depression, regardless of drinking levels.

The findings open new dialogue about the potential value of monitoring alcohol consumption during interventions for depression. This research may also inspire people to cut back on their drinking habits to improve their mental health.

Main aspects:

  1. The study used data from 200,000 individuals collected between 2016 and 2020, suggesting that changes in alcohol consumption correlate with changes in symptoms of depression.
  2. For all but two subgroups, an increased level of alcohol drinking risk significantly increased the prevalence of positive screens for depression. In contrast, the prevalence of positive screens for depression decreased from 17% to 49% for subgroups that reported a decrease in alcohol use.
  3. Research has not directly identified the causal factors behind changes in alcohol consumption and symptoms of depression. The simultaneous changes could result from multiple factors, including the impact of drinking on depression, the effect of depression on drinking habits, or other unknown factors influencing both.

Source; Alcoholism Research Society

Changes in alcohol consumption tend to accompany changes in depression symptoms, according to a study published inAlcohol: clinical and experimental research.

Individuals who reported reductions in alcohol consumption simultaneously reported reductions in symptoms of depression, even when their alcohol consumption exceeded normal levels.

This shows a woman and bottles.
The study didn’t look at what caused the changes in alcohol consumption and symptoms of depression. Credit: Neuroscience News

Similarly, those who approved of an increase in alcohol consumption also reported an increase in depression, whether or not the amount they drank was at a level considered unhealthy.

The findings may motivate people to reduce their alcohol consumption to improve their mood and suggest that monitoring changes in alcohol consumption may be useful as part of clinical interventions for depression.

For the study, researchers examined responses from 200,000 individuals about people’s drinking behaviors and symptoms of depression during primary care visits between 2016 and 2020. The participants were adults who completed questionnaires about alcohol and depression as part of routine health care on two occasions eleven to twenty-four months apart.

About a quarter reported unhealthy use of alcohol, and about thirteen percent screened positive for depression. Three quarters had no change in alcohol consumption from the time of the first questionnaire to the second.

For all but two subgroups with an increased level of alcohol drinking risk, there was a significant increase in the prevalence of positive screens for depression ranging from 11% to 100% higher at the time of the second questionnaire than to the first.

The exceptions were those whose alcohol consumption had risen from zero to a level of consumption not considered unhealthy, and those whose alcohol consumption had risen from high risk to very high risk.

For subgroups reporting a decrease in alcohol use, the prevalence of positive screenings for depression decreased from 17% to 49% from the time of the first questionnaire to the second.

The only subgroup in which a decline in depression prevalence did not accompany a reduction in alcohol consumption were those whose alcohol consumption dropped from levels not considered unhealthy at the time the first questionnaire was completed to no drinking at the second assessment.

The study didn’t look at what caused the changes in alcohol consumption and symptoms of depression.

Simultaneous increases or decreases in symptoms of depression and alcohol use could be attributed to increased or decreased alcohol use causing changes in depression, improvement or worsening of depression leading to increases or decreases in alcohol use alcohol or other factors leading to changes in both depression and alcohol use.

The screening tools used in the study were AUDIT-C, a validated tool for identifying high-risk alcohol behavior, and PHQ-2, a validated depression screening tool.

The questionnaire on which the study was based may be subject to biases related to self-assessment and interactions in the healthcare setting.

The questionnaires were administered in Washington state; the study population was predominantly white, non-Hispanic, elderly, and insured by commercial insurance or Medicare.

Learn about this depression research news story

Author: Kevin A. Hallgren
Source: Alcoholism Research Society
Contact: Kevin A. Hallgren – Alcoholism Research Society
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original research: Access closed.
“Changes in alcohol consumption reported in routine health screenings are associated with changes in symptoms of depression” by Kevin A. Hallgren et al. Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research


Abstract

Changes in alcohol consumption reported in routine health screenings are associated with changes in symptoms of depression

Background

The Alcohol Use Disorders Drinking Test (AUDIT-C) version has been widely validated as a point-in-time screen for unhealthy alcohol use, but less is known about the significance of changes in scores AUDIT-C from routine screenings over time. Unhealthy alcohol use and depression commonly occur together, and changes in drinking often occur alongside changes in depression symptoms. We evaluate associations between changes in AUDIT-C scores and changes in depression symptoms reported on short screens completed in routine care.

Methods

The study sample included 198,335 primary care patients who completed two AUDIT-C screenings 11-24 months apart and the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) depression screening on the same day of each AUDIT-C. Both screening measures were completed as part of routine care within a large health care system in Washington state. AUDIT-C scores were categorized to reflect five levels of use at both time points, resulting in 25 subgroups with different patterns of change. For each of 25 subgroups, within-group changes in the prevalence of PHQ-2 positive depression screenings were characterized using hazard ratios (RRs) and McNemar’s test.

Results

Patient subgroups with increases in AUDIT-C risk categories generally had an increased prevalence of positive screens for depression (RRs ranging from 0.95 to 2.00). Patient subgroups with decreases in AUDIT-C risk categories generally experienced decreases in the prevalence of positive screens for depression (RRs ranging from 0.52 to 1.01). Patient subgroups who had no changes in AUDIT-C risk categories experienced little or no change in the prevalence of positive depression screenings (RRs ranging from 0.98 to 1.15).

Conclusions

As hypothesized, changes in alcohol consumption reported on AUDIT-C screens completed in routine care were associated with changes in depression screening outcomes. The results support the validity and clinical utility of monitoring changes in AUDIT-C scores over time as a meaningful measure of changes in alcohol consumption.

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