Women With Depressive Symptoms Are At Risk Of Developing Alcohol Problems Over Time

December 02, 1997

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- One of the first studies to investigate the relationship between gender, depression and alcohol problems in a large community sample over a number of years has shown that women who have symptoms of depression are at risk of developing alcohol problems.

The study by researchers at the University at Buffalo did not find a relationship between depressive symptoms and alcohol problems among men.

The study is published in the Dec. 2 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, which is dedicated to research by faculty members and graduates of the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.

Beth Moscato, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and lead author of the study, hypothesized that depressive symptoms predicted subsequent alcohol problems in women, but that the inverse was true for men, i.e., that alcohol problems predicted depression.

To test the hypothesis, Moscato and colleagues studied a group of 1,306 adults from Erie County, N.Y., for seven years. Participants were at least 19 years old when the study began in 1986. Follow-up interviews were completed in 1989 and 1993.

Participants supplied information on alcohol use, alcohol-related problems and depressive symptoms, as well as socio-demographic information

Results showed that women who initially were classified as having depressive symptoms were 3 times more likely to have alcohol problems after three years and 2 1/2 times more likely after four years than women who did not report depressive symptoms. No relationship was found at seven years.

Alcohol problems did not predict subsequent depressive symptoms in men.

"These findings should be a flag to health practitioners," Moscato said. "If a woman has a high level of depressive symptoms, the practitioner should also evaluate drinking problems

over time. Depression and health problems related to alcohol consumption are major public-health concerns. Women have been understudied, particularly regarding alcohol problems. "If we can sort out the nature of these relationships, we can better define who is at risk for which condition at what point in time. We can then target interventions to these high-risk groups."

Contributing researchers were Marcia Russell, Ph.D., and Pamela Mudar, Research Institute on Addictions, Buffalo; Maria Zielezny, Ph.D., UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine; Evelyn Bromet, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, SUNY at Stony Brook; Gladys Egri, M.D., UB Department of Psychiatry, and James R. Marshall, Ph.D., formerly of UB, now at the Arizona Cancer Center.

University at Buffalo

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