Alcohol may take the edge off, but giving it up is better for you: study

WATCH: A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has found that women who gave up drinking alcohol reported better mental well-being.

Some of us turn to alcohol to relax or take the edge off, but research suggests giving it up altogether may be better for our mental health.

The study, published in July in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), found that women who gave up drinking alcohol reported better mental well-being overall.

Speaking with Today.com, study co-author Herbert Pang of the University of Hong Kong said the research looked at how much moderate drinking impacted a person’s quality of life.

READ MORE: Women, young adults visiting the ER for alcohol-related issues in growing numbers

“The risks and benefits of moderate drinking are not clear,” he said.

The study looked at the self-reported mental health of more than 10,000 people in Hong Kong and more than 31,000 people in the U.S. “Heavy drinkers” were not included in the research.


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“Our findings that lifetime alcohol abstainers report the highest level of mental well-being,” authors said in the report.

Authors suggested people who quit drinking may have a similar quality of life to those who’ve never had alcohol.

“This may be analogous to smoking cessation, which results in the recovery of health outcomes to the level of lifetime nonsmokers,” the report read.

Co-author Michael Ni added that giving up drinking can even lead to a more peaceful and calm life.

Alcohol-related issues in Canada

Another study published in July found more and more young adults and women were making emergency room visits for alcohol-related problems.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at emergency room visits in Ontario between 2003 and 2016.

“We saw problems with people who were coming in who were intoxicated, people who were coming in in withdrawal, people coming in with liver disease, with all sorts of other organ damage that comes from that. And people who’ve had poisonings from drinking too much alcohol as well,” study co-author Dr. Daniel Myran, a researcher and resident at The Ottawa Hospital, previously told Global News.

READ MORE: Alcohol-related deaths remain a ‘silent epidemic’ in Canada — expert

Women were catching up to men’s drinking habits — a bit of a surprise for some researchers. Middle-aged men were still the most common patients.

How alcohol impacts our bodies

And while a social drink or two or even that evening glass of red wine may seem harmless, some experts say it can cause excessive drinking over time.

Previously speaking with Global News, registered dietitian Melissa Murray at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto said the moderate alcohol consumption recommendation for women is two drinks per day with a maximum of 10 per week, and three for men a day with a maximum of 15 per week.

“This doesn’t mean you can save them up and have them at one time,” she added.

READ MORE: Canadian women increasingly drinking themselves to death

Excessive alcohol can lead to a number of changes in the body related to everything from skin to weight to digestion.

Murray explained that excessive alcohol over time can damage the intestines and lead to diarrhea. Alcohol consumption can also lead to the development of ulcers.

And while authors of the CAMJ study don’t believe alcohol consumption worldwide will slow down any time soon, it is important to keep in mind how much alcohol you actually consume during the week.

“Further studies are needed to establish clearly the impact of alcohol use on mental and physical well-being before alcohol is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

— with files from Leslie Young

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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