Objectives: The purpose of the study was to determine whether moderate alcohol use mediates or buffers the effect of stress on depression in a group of non-Hispanic White men and women.
Methods: Data are from the Los Angeles Epidemiological Catchment Area cohort. Individuals were assessed at two time periods, 1 year apart. Mean depression scores were analyzed for each level of stress and alcohol use.
Results: In the simultaneous presence of both chronic strain and negative life events, a U-shaped pattern was observed in which abstainers and light and heavy drinkers had higher depression scores at the second time period than did light-moderate and moderate alcohol users. The U-shaped relationship remained when the effects of sex, age, and physical health status were controlled.
Conclusions: Light-moderate and moderate drinkers had less depression in the presence of stress than persons in other more extreme drinking categories. Moderate alcohol use may serve as a proxy for a spectrum of generally moderate behaviors that either attenuate the effect of stress on depression or suppress the effects of stress.