The effect of moderate alcohol use on the relationship between stress and depression

Am J Public Health. 1994 Dec;84(12):1913-7. doi: 10.2105/ajph.84.12.1913.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*