Alcohol and depression: Evidence from the 2014 health survey for England

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017 Nov 1:180:86-92. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.08.006. Epub 2017 Sep 1.


Background: A relatively large body of literature examines the association between depression and alcohol consumption, with evidence suggesting a bidirectional causal relationship. However, the endogeneity arising from this reverse causation has not been addressed in the literature.

Methods: Using data on 5828 respondents from the Health Survey for England (HSE), this study revisits the relationship between alcohol and depression and addresses the endogenous nature of this relationship. We use information on self-assessed depression, and control for endogeneity using the Lewbel two-staged least square (2SLS) estimation technique.

Results: We find that drinking alcohol promotes depression, and this is consistent across several measures of drinking behaviour including the amount of alcohol consumed, consumption intensity, alcohol dependence and risk of dependence.

Conclusion: While drinking may be generally accepted and in the case of England, part of the culture, this has costs in terms of both physical and mental health that ought not to be ignored. While public policy has predominantly focused on the physical aspects of excessive alcohol consumption it is possible that these policies will also have a direct positive spillover in terms of the mental health costs, through the impact of lower alcohol consumption on quality of life and wellbeing.

Keywords: Alcohol; Depression; England; Wellbeing.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Depression* / psychology
  • England
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Policy
  • Quality of Life