While we may not be able to make you laugh quite as much as the GEICO camel, we do bring you news that should at least make you smile.
A new Spanish study suggests that drinking wine might help you avoid depression.
Although drinking a lot of wine or other alcohol may be a sign of depression or other mental health problems, alcohol in moderation may benefit mental health according to the study authors.
“One drink a day, preferentially wine, may help prevent depression,” said lead researcher Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, chair of the department of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Navarra, in Pamplona.
Researchers followed more than 5,500 light-to-moderate drinkers, aged between 55 and 80 for up to seven years. None of the individuals had suffered from depression or had alcohol-related problems at the start of the study. Over seven years, with medical exams, interviews with dietitians and questionnaires, the researchers kept tabs on participants’ mental health and lifestyle. Wine was the most popular drink and participants who drank two to seven glasses a week were the least likely to suffer from depression, compared to nondrinkers. These findings remained significant even after the researchers took factors such as smoking, diet and marriage into account.
But before you start reaching for the corkscrew, we need to warn you that not all experts agree with the findings and even the research team, only saw benefit in moderate drinkers.
Martinez-Gonzalez thinks the apparent benefit of wine in preventing depression may work the same way that moderate drinking helps prevent heart disease.
“Depression and heart disease seem to share some common mechanisms because they share many similar protective factors and risk factors,” he said. However, he added that depression prevention is not a reason to start drinking.
“If you are not a drinker, please don’t start drinking,” he said. “If you drink alcohol, please keep it in the range of one or less drinks a day and consider drinking wine instead of other alcoholic beverages.”
Tony Tang, an adjunct psychology professor at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., said the new research “is consistent with other studies suggesting modest health benefits of very modest drinking.”
But, Tang said other factors may be at work in the potential connection between wine and depression. He noted that compared to nondrinkers, those in the Spanish study who drank a moderate amount of wine were more likely to be married men who were also physically active. Being single or divorced, living alone and being sedentary are well-established risk factors of depression. Thus, he suggests, the correlation between modest drinking and depression is a coincidence caused by these other known factors.
“An adequate social life is the most important factor we know that protects people from depression,” Tang said. “Perhaps not drinking is a sign of serious social isolation in Spain while drinking a glass of wine a day is simply a sign of having a normal social life.”