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HONG KONG — Cutting that nightly glass of wine from your life may make you happier. A new study finds that quitting alcohol can improve a person’s mental well-being, especially among women.

The research, conducted at the University of Hong Kong, goes against other studies that claim having the occasional drink may actually be beneficial. In the end, the less alcohol we drink, the better off we are.

“Our findings suggest caution in recommendations that moderate drinking could improve health-related quality of life. Instead, quitting drinking may be associated with a more favorable change in mental well-being, approaching the level of lifetime abstainers,” says lead author Dr. Michael Ni of the School of Public Health and The State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science at the university.

Dr. Ni’s team used data from 10,386 adults, mostly middle aged, in Hong Kong who were non-drinkers or moderate drinkers between 2009 and 2013. “Moderate drinkers” in this case refers to men who have 14 drinks or less per week and women who have seven drinks or less per week for women. Of the study sample, 64% of the men were abstainers and former drinkers. Nearly 88% of the women who participated were nondrinkers.

Researchers compared their findings with data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a representative study of 31,079 Americans conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They found that lifetime abstainers from both genders had the highest level of mental well-being at the outset of the study. Women who were once moderate drinkers and quit drinking experienced a positive change in mental well-being in both study samples.

The findings of both studies held true after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, body mass index, smoking status, and other factors.

“More evidence suggests caution in recommending moderate drinking as part of a healthy diet,” says Dr. Ni. “Global alcohol consumption is expected to continue to increase unless effective strategies are employed.”

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

About Ben Renner

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