BOSTON -- One of the few longitudinal studies to investigate the relationship between gender, depression and alcohol problems in a large community sample has shown that in women, depressive symptoms may lead to alcohol problems over time, while in men, problems with alcohol might subsequently lead to depression.
The results were presented here today (Friday, June 14) at the annual meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research.
Beth Moscato, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and lead author of the study found that for women, depression predicted subsequent alcohol problems.
Women who initially were classified as depressed were 2 1/2 times more likely to have alcohol problems after three years, than women who were not depressed, she said.
In men, results suggested that alcohol problems appeared first, and were somewhat more likely to lead to depression after three years.
"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. If a man has a drinking problem, he may need to be monitored for depression."
This community study was based on 986 adults who were followed for seven years. Data was collected at the beginning of the study and at years 3 and 7. In addition to the gender differences that appeared, results showed that an earlier bout of depression or alcohol problems was the strongest predictor of subsequent depressive symptoms or alcohol problems in both men and women.
"Depression and alcoholism are major public-health concerns," Moscato said. "Differences between males and females haven't been examined systematically. Women have been understudied, particularly regarding alcohol problems.
"If we can sort out the nature of these relationships in relation to gender, 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 Maria Zielezny and James R. Marshall, UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine; Marcia Russell and Pamela Mudar, Research Institute on Addictions in Buffalo; Gladys Egri, UB Department of Psychiatry, and Evelyn Bromet, Department of Psychiatry, SUNY at Stony Brook.