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Shunning booze may improve women’s mental health: study

Winding down with some wine may not be so relaxing after all. 

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong found that quitting alcohol completely may actually be more relaxing than a nightly glass of vino. 

For the study, published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers examined the self-reported changes in physical and mental well-being amongst more than 10,000 men and women in Hong Kong and 31,000 in the US. However, the study only looked at moderate drinkers; those who self-reported as heavy drinkers were not included.

Those who quit imbibing reported feeling more “calm and peaceful” than when they were moderate drinkers. While people who quit drinking reported the biggest changes in their mental well-being, those who never drank at all were actually found to have the “highest level of mental well being,” the author’s note. 

One notable outcome: The women who quit alcohol self-reported more favorable changes in their mental well-being

Women who quit drinking were found to have a greater improvement in mental well-being than lifetime abstainers,” the researchers report in the study.

For the Chinese population, researchers used the FAMILY Cohort study — a longitudinal study of health, happiness, and family harmony that looked at individuals, households, and neighborhoods in Hong Kong. For the US population, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions was used to assess the subjects. The study’s results “remained consistent” after it was adjusted for factors including BMI, smoking status, and self-reported diseases. 

Still, the researchers note the women in the Chinese cohort were very light drinkers to begin with: “Most Chinese women in Hong Kong use alcohol fewer than 4 times per month, which may not have a physiologic effect,” they write. “The explanation for our findings and the underlying mechanism are not clear.”

One area of the study that warrants a further look: Can quitting alcohol reverse previous mental health damage caused by alcohol use? 

“It is possible that alcohol-related neurotoxicity reverses following abstinence,” the researchers write. 

Another interesting tidbit: The study says that quitting alcohol could help reduce stress from life events that would normally have you hitting the bottle. 

Alcohol cessation may also reduce stressful life events, such as conflict within family, difficulties in employment and legal troubles, resulting in improved mental well-being.” 

Thinking of giving up booze? New York’s bustling sober scene is surging in popularity.