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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 21:12 GMT
Women drinkers 'depression link'
Depressed woman
Binge drinking adversely affected women's mental health, the study suggested
The link between binge drinking and depression is stronger in women than men, a study suggests.

US and Canadian researchers quizzed 6,009 men and 8,054 women about alcohol intake and their history of depression.

They found women who were binge drinkers were more likely to be clinically depressed than men.

But moderate drinking was not likely to increase the risk in either sex, the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, reported.

The study measured alcohol intake for the previous week and the last year, including the frequency of drinking, how much was usually drunk each time and the maximum, overall quantity and whether there were periods of binge drinking.

We know the link is significant, but it is also complex
Andy Bell
Mental Health Alliance

Depression was also measured for the study and defined as whether a person met the criteria for clinical depression, or had experienced recent depressed feelings.

The research, carried out by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada and the University of North Dakota, said the difference between men and women was noticed only in those suffering from clinical depression.

The researchers believe that could be because women suffering major depression drink as a way out of their problems.

Vicious circle

Professor Sharon Wilsnack, from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said: "This pattern of associations is more consistent with women using alcohol to counteract depression - by high-quantity drinking and intoxication - than with chronic alcohol consumption tending to make women depressed.

"However, a vicious circle could possibly begin with drinking in response to depression."

She said clinical depression may encourage some women to drink large amounts of alcohol in the hope of numbing depressed feelings, "with risks of alcohol abuse and dependence".

And she said doctors had to be aware women may be trying to medicate their moods with alcohol because of this.

But researchers said more work was needed on whether drinking leads to depression, depression leads to drinking or whether the relationship is defined by something else.

Andy Bell, of the Mental Health Alliance, an umbrella group of charities and health professionals, agreed it was still not clear what came first - the drinking or depression.

"We know the link is significant, but it is also complex. People with mental health problems can have drink and drug addictions and often need a multi-disciplinary approach."

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