Evidence relates moderate alcohol consumption in later life to fewer depressive symptoms and greater functional ability. A study published in the journal Gerontologist evaluated social interaction as a mediator of these outcomes.
Data included more than 2,000 older adults in the Health and Retirement Study.
In Study 1, cross-sectional mediation analyses evaluated social interaction as a mechanism through which moderate alcohol use was related to decreased depressive symptomatology and less functional limitation. In Study 2, longitudinal cross-lagged path analyses further evaluated the impact of moderate alcohol use and social interaction on future depressive symptoms and functional limitation. In Study 1, moderate alcohol use was associated with decreased depressive symptomatology indirectly via greater social interaction and moderate alcohol use was associated with less functional limitation indirectly via greater social interaction. In Study 2, significant indirect effects corroborated findings from Study 1. Moderate alcohol use in 2012 inversely predicted depressive symptomatology in 2014 via greater levels of social interaction in 2012. Moderate alcohol use in 2012 predicted less functional limitation in 2014 via greater social interaction in 2012.
The study concludes that social interaction is essential to the seemingly beneficial effect of moderate alcohol use on depressive symptomatology and functional ability. Clinically, this suggests caution in attributing health benefits to consumption of alcohol itself and identifies social interaction as a treatment target for improved health outcomes in later life.
Source: The Benefit of Moderate Alcohol Use on Mood and Functional Ability in Later Life: Due to Beers or Frequent Cheers? Scott RG, Wiener CH, Paulson D. Gerontologist. 2018 Oct 24. .