A few beers a day won’t hurt you, right? It’s hard to say. Two recent studies from the UK are sending conflicting messages about the affects of drinking on men’s mental health.
One study found that regular heavy drinking leads to a mental decline, while another asserts that drinking with friends actually improves a man’s mental health.
Wondering how both can be true? Let’s take a look.
Men’s Mental Health & Drinking
Mental Health Decline?
The first study involved 5,000 British civilians over a 20 years. Published in Neurology, research by Severine Sabia at University College London found that men who drank heavily for the decade up to age 56 had an accelerated decline in mental health when compared to men who abstained or who drank only moderately. Researchers tracked their mental decline by administering mental health tests every 5 years in a 10 year period.
The study spanned three ranges of heavy daily alcohol intake, spanning from 8 oz of wine or 18.5 oz of beer per dat to 24 oz of wine or 55.5 oz of beer per day in the heaviest drinkers. Sabia says that it’s not possible to specify the minimum level of alcohol consumption at which increased risk of mental health decline commences. Nor were there enough heavy female drinkers in the study to allow conclusions about mental health decline among women.
According to the researchers, the mental health decline of consistent excessive alcohol consumption is equal to about 2 years of aging when it comes to mental faculties like reasoning, and six years of aging when it comes to skills like memory.
Mental Health Benefits of Drinking?
Research from the Medical Research Council shows that there are some mental health benefits to drinking. The team studied a group of 22 men aged 22 – 52 and found that their weekly drinking habits promoted positive mental health. According to their research, behaviors that the men would otherwise not express or even actively suppress outside of the drinking group were allowed expression. In effect, the mens’ social time boosted their mental health by allowing them to express emotions that might otherwise be socially unacceptable other places.
The leader of the study, Dr. Carol Emslie, thinks that the communal nature of the drinking had a positive affect on the mens’ overall mental health. Some specific side effects? Men said they felt an increased loyalty to each other, a social and emotional closeness, a decreased sense of isolation, and a desire to make their friends feel happy.
Men & Drinking: a Balanced Approach
The key to taking advantage of drinking’s benefits while avoiding its damage is to do it in moderation. As Sabia’s research shows, its possible to enjoy moderate drinking that will still yield the positive mental health benefits discovered by Emslie’s study. Don’t consume excessive amounts of alcohol, eat a well-balanced diet, and stay physically active — if you keep these tips in mind, you should have no trouble maintaining your mental health!
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