Quitting alcohol may improve mental well-being in women


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Beautiful young woman drinking water
Quitting alcohol may improve health-related quality of life for women, especially their mental well-being, according to a study out of Hong Kong.

The debate as to whether moderate drinking is good, bad, or has no effect on health has been ongoing for years. Now, a new study suggests that people — especially women — who give up alcohol can experience better mental health and reach levels of well-being almost on a par with those of lifelong abstainers.

The new study published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, analysed survey data from nearly 10,400 participants in Hong Kong and more than 31,000 participants in the United States. They found men and women lifetime abstainers of alcohol reported the highest level of mental well-being at the start of the study, and women who drank moderately saw an improvement in their mental well-being after they quit.

“More evidence suggests caution in recommending moderate drinking as part of a healthy diet,” says Dr. Michael Ni, School of Public Health and The State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, University of Hong Kong (HKU).

The researchers define moderate drinking as having 14 drinks (196 grams of pure alcohol) or fewer per week, in the case of men, and 7 drinks (98 grams of pure alcohol) or fewer per week, in the case of women.

Among the participants, the mean age was 49 years, and women made up about 56% of the cohort. Among the male participants, approximately 64% were nondrinkers (including lifetime abstainers and former drinkers). Among the female participants, approximately 88% qualified as nondrinkers.

“Global alcohol consumption is expected to continue to increase unless effective strategies are employed,” says Dr. Ni. “Our findings suggest caution in recommendations that moderate drinking could improve health-related quality of life. Instead, quitting drinking may be associated with a more favourable change in mental well-being, approaching the level of lifetime abstainers.”

Despite these new finding, researchers still remain divided on the benefits and risks of alcohol consumption. Last year a Global Burden of Diseases study found there to be no healthy level to of alcohol consumption. Meanwhile, research featured this month in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that older adults who occasionally drink may live longer than nondrinkers.



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