Alcohol and depression interact with one another in several harmful ways:
Alcohol may cause or worsen depression
Drinking too much alcohol is a risk factor for new and worsening depression.
A 2012 study found that 63.8% of people who are dependent on alcohol are also depressed. The study did not test whether alcohol use causes depression, however.
Research from 2011 found that having an alcohol use disorder significantly increased a person’s risk of having depression.
Alcohol may even increase the risk of depression in babies exposed to alcohol in the womb. Children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are more likely to develop depression later, according to an earlier study from 2010.
Chronic alcohol use may change brain chemistry in a way that increases the risk of depression.
Alcohol can increase the risk of dangerous symptoms
Alcohol use in a person with depression may intensify the symptoms of depression and increase the risk of adverse and life-threatening outcomes.
A 2011 study of adolescents seeking treatment for mental health conditions such as depression found that at the 1-year follow-up, teens who drank alcohol were more likely to attempt suicide or engage in other forms of self-harm.
A 2011 analysis found a correlation between using alcohol before the age of 13 and later engaging in self-harm.
Research from 2013 also supports the link between alcohol use and self-harm. The study found that teenagers with depression who drank alcohol were significantly more likely to act on suicidal feelings.
Depression may increase alcohol use
Some people with depression drink alcohol to ease their symptoms. Over time, this can lead to alcohol dependence and abuse.
People who drink to cope with psychological distress may drink more over time, especially when they wake up feeling anxious or depressed. Chronic drinking significantly increases the risk of alcohol abuse.
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