Background: Only few prospective population studies have been able so far to investigate depression and drinking patterns in detail. Therefore, little is known about what aspect of alcohol consumption best predicts symptoms of depression in the general population.
Participants and design: In this prospective population-based two-wave cohort study, a cohort of alcohol-drinking men and women (n = 15 926) were followed-up after 5 years. A postal questionnaire was sent in 1998 (response proportion 40%) and again in 2003 (response proportion 80% of the baseline participants) to Finnish adults aged 20-54 years at baseline.
Measurements: Alcohol consumption was measured by average intake (g/week) and by measures of binge drinking (intoxications, hangovers and alcohol-induced pass-outs). Depressive symptoms were assessed with the 21-item Beck Depression Inventory. In addition, information from hospital discharge register for depression and alcohol abuse were linked to the data.
Findings: This study found a positive association between baseline binge drinking and depressive symptoms 5 years later. Adjustment for several possible confounders attenuated the observed relationships only slightly, suggesting that binge drinking contributes independently to the occurrence of depressive symptoms. Binge drinking was related to symptoms of depression independently of average intake.
Conclusions: This study supports the hypothesis that heavy drinking, and in particular a binge pattern involving intoxications, hangovers or pass-outs, produces depressive symptoms in the general population. The frequency of hangovers was the best predictor for depressive symptoms.