Background. Alcohol is commonly considered to be associated with persistence of common mental disorder (CMD; anxiety/depression). However no community-based longitudinal studies have investigated the direction of causality.
Method. We examined the association between alcohol consumption and recovery from CMD using data on 706 community-based subjects with CMD who were followed for 18 months. Alcohol consumption at baseline was defined as hazardous drinking [Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) >= 8], binge drinking (defined as six or more units of alcohol on one occasion, approximately two to three pints of commercially sold beer) and dependence.
Results. When compared with a non-binge-drinking group, non-recovery at follow-up was associated with binge drinking on at least a monthly basis at baseline, although the confidence interval (CI) included unity [adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.47, 95 % CI 0.89-2.45]. There was also weak evidence that alcohol dependence was associated with non-recovery (adjusted OR 1.37, 95% CI 0.67-2.81). There was little evidence to support hazardous drinking as a risk factor for non-recovery (adjusted OR 1.12, 95% CI 0.67-1.88).
Conclusions. Binge drinking may be a potential risk factor for non-recovery from CMD, although the possibility of no effect cannot be excluded. Larger studies are required to refute or confirm this finding.