Medical News Today: Older adults who drink tea are less likely to be depressed

Previous research has suggested that there is a link between depression and tea drinking. Now, a new study is investigating this relationship further.

Depression is common among older adults, with 7% of those over the age of 60 years reporting “major depressive disorder.”

Accordingly, research is underway to identify possible causes, which include genetic predisposition, socioeconomic status, and relationships with family, living partners, and the community at large.

A study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Fudan University in Shanghai raises another possibility. It finds a statistically significant link between regular tea drinking and lower levels of depression in seniors.

While the researchers have not yet established a causal relationship between tea and mental health, their findings — which appear in BMC Geriatrics — show a strong association.

Reading the tea leaves

Tea is popular among older adults, and various researchers have recently been investigating the potential beneficial effects of the beverage.

A separate study from the NUS that appeared in Aging last June, for example, found that tea may have properties that help brain areas maintain healthy cognitive function.

Our study offers the first evidence of the positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggests a protective effect on age-related decline in brain organization.”

Junhua Li, lead author

That earlier paper also cites research showing that tea and its ingredients — catechin, L-theanine, and caffeine — can produce positive effects on mood, cognitive ability, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and mortality.

However, defining the exact role of tea in preventing depression is difficult, especially due to the social context in which people often consume it. Particularly in countries such as China, social interaction may itself account for some or even all of the drink’s benefits.

Feng Qiushi and Shen Ke led the new study, which tracks this covariate and others, including gender, education, and residence, as well as marital and pension status.

The team also factored in lifestyle habits and health details, including smoking, drinking alcohol, daily activities, level of cognitive function, and degree of social engagement.

In addition, the authors write, “The study has major methodological strength,” citing a few of its attributes.

Firstly, they note, it could more accurately track an individual’s tea-drinking history because “instead of examining tea-drinking habit [only] at the time of survey or in the preceding month/year, we combined the information on frequency and consistency of tea consumption at age 60 and at the time of assessment.”

Once the researchers had classified each person as one of four types of tea drinker according to how often they drank the beverage, they concluded:

[O]nly consistent daily drinkers, those who had drunk tea almost every day since age 60, could significantly benefit in mental health.”

13,000 study participants

The researchers analyzed the data of 13,000 individuals who took part in the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) between 2005 and 2014.

They discovered a virtually universal link between tea drinking and lower reports of depression.

Other factors seemed to reduce depression as well, including living in an urban setting and being educated, married, financially comfortable, in better health, and socially engaged.

The data also suggested that the benefits of tea drinking are strongest for males aged 65 to 79 years. Feng Qiushi suggests an explanation: “It is likely that the benefit of tea drinking is more evident for the early stage of health deterioration. More studies are surely needed in regard to this issue.”

Looking at the connection the other way around, tea drinkers appeared to share certain characteristics.

Higher proportions of tea drinkers were older, male, and urban residents. In addition, they were more likely to be educated, married, and receiving pensions.

Tea drinkers also exhibited higher cognitive and physical function and were more socially involved. On the other hand, they were also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke.

Qiushi previously published the results of the effect of tea drinking on a different population, Singaporeans, finding a similar link to lower rates of depression. The new study, while more detailed, supports this earlier work.

Currently exploring new CLHLS data regarding tea drinking, Qiushi wishes to understand more about what tea can do, saying, “This new round of data collection has distinguished different types of tea, such as green tea, black tea, and oolong tea so that we could see which type of tea really works for alleviating depressive symptoms.”

Medical News Today: What to know about alcohol and depression

Alcohol can make a person feel depressed and may even trigger or worsen depression. Depression is also a risk factor for using alcohol, since people who feel depressed may use alcohol to ease their symptoms.

Several studies, including a 2013 study that used a nationally representative sample, have found that people who drink to manage a psychiatric condition are more likely to abuse alcohol.

In this article, learn more about the links between alcohol and depression, as well as when to see a doctor.

Alcohol and depression interact with one another in several harmful ways:

Alcohol may cause or worsen depression

Drinking too much alcohol is a risk factor for new and worsening depression.

A 2012 study found that 63.8% of people who are dependent on alcohol are also depressed. The study did not test whether alcohol use causes depression, however.

Research from 2011 found that having an alcohol use disorder significantly increased a person’s risk of having depression.

Alcohol may even increase the risk of depression in babies exposed to alcohol in the womb. Children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are more likely to develop depression later, according to an earlier study from 2010.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows activity in the central nervous system. This can temporarily make a person feel sleepy, tired, or sad.

Chronic alcohol use may change brain chemistry in a way that increases the risk of depression.

Alcohol can increase the risk of dangerous symptoms

Alcohol use in a person with depression may intensify the symptoms of depression and increase the risk of adverse and life-threatening outcomes.

A 2011 study of adolescents seeking treatment for mental health conditions such as depression found that at the 1-year follow-up, teens who drank alcohol were more likely to attempt suicide or engage in other forms of self-harm.

A 2011 analysis found a correlation between using alcohol before the age of 13 and later engaging in self-harm.

Research from 2013 also supports the link between alcohol use and self-harm. The study found that teenagers with depression who drank alcohol were significantly more likely to act on suicidal feelings.

Suicide prevention

  • If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

Depression may increase alcohol use

Some people with depression drink alcohol to ease their symptoms. Over time, this can lead to alcohol dependence and abuse.

People who drink to cope with psychological distress may drink more over time, especially when they wake up feeling anxious or depressed. Chronic drinking significantly increases the risk of alcohol abuse.

For many people, feeling sad or unhappy is a prominent symptom of depression. Depression is more than just sadness, however. It can affect many aspects of a person’s life and can even be debilitating. Depression is the leading worldwide cause of disability.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • getting no joy from hobbies or activities previously enjoyed
  • feeling that there is nothing to look forward to or no hope for the future
  • unexplained health issues, such as headaches, muscle pain, or stomach problems
  • changes in sleep habits, such as sleeping much more or less than usual
  • unintentionally losing or gaining weight
  • having feelings of worthlessness
  • having a hard time making decisions
  • having trouble concentrating on work or school
  • experiencing thoughts of death
  • contemplating suicide or other forms of self-harm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that excessive drinking claims 88,000 lives per year. The CDC defines excessive alcohol use as:

  • binge drinking, which is when females consume four or more drinks in a single session or males consume five or more drinks in a single session
  • any alcohol use during pregnancy or by people under the age of 21
  • heavy drinking, defined as eight or more drinks per week for females or 15 or more drinks per week for males

Other signs that a person may have an alcohol use disorder include:

  • needing to drink to feel “normal”
  • being unable to stop drinking despite trying
  • concealing drinking from others
  • doing things that harm oneself or others when drinking
  • being distracted by cravings for alcohol
  • needing to drink progressively more to get the same effects

Many doctors recommend avoiding alcohol while taking antidepressants.

Both substances may make a person feel less alert, so they may be dangerous if a person takes them together. This is especially true for those who use other medications or have a chronic medical condition.

Some doctors advise drinking in moderation if a person must drink, which means no more than one drink per day for females or two drinks per day for males. According to the CDC, a single drink means:

  • 12 ounces (oz) of beer
  • 5 oz of wine
  • 8 oz of malt liquor
  • 1.5 oz of hard liquor

The specific effects of alcohol on antidepressants depend on the antidepressant a person takes. It is vital to discuss the risks and possible interactions of every medication with a doctor.

A person should also monitor their reaction to alcohol when using antidepressants. Some people who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may become severely intoxicated when they use antidepressants.

People using other drugs or who use nontraditional antidepressants should be especially mindful of drinking.

Benzodiazepines, a class of anti-anxiety drugs that some people with depression may use, may help with alcohol withdrawal. When combined with alcohol, however, they can cause life-threatening intoxication.

Both depression and alcohol use disorder are treatable medical conditions. Some people may feel unsure about seeing a doctor, but the right treatment can ease symptoms and help a person live a better, happier life.

Anyone who suspects they have depression or who would like to reduce their alcohol intake but are having trouble should see a doctor.

Go to the emergency room for signs of alcohol overdose, such as loss of consciousness, serious confusion, or problems breathing.

People undergoing treatment should tell their doctor if:

  • their symptoms get worse after starting treatment
  • their symptoms do not improve within a few weeks of beginning treatment
  • they have other symptoms, such as anxiety or mood swings
  • they have thoughts of suicide

A combination of alcohol use and depression can create difficulties in treatment. A person who uses alcohol and who has depression may not be able to tell which symptoms are due to which issue until they seek treatment.

While quitting alcohol is crucial for people with alcohol use disorder and depression, avoiding alcohol will not cure depression. People may wish to seek quality psychological care from a doctor, therapist, or both.

Medical News Today: What is the link between depression and anger?

Anger is an emotion that everyone feels sometimes, but if a person is feeling angry a lot of the time, they may be experiencing depression.

In many cases, medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, or a combination of these treatments can help provide symptom relief.

In this article, we look at the connection between anger and depression, as well as the other symptoms and diagnosis of depression. We also discuss the treatment options for both anger and depression.

According to researchers, there is an association between the level of anger that people experience and the severity of depression.

In a 2013 study involving 536 participants who were experiencing major depressive episodes, 54.5% reported feelings of irritability and anger.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), depression can manifest in different ways in different people.

The ADAA note that females with depression tend to feel sad or guilty, whereas males experiencing depression are more likely to feel irritable and angry. However, although this is generally the case, it is important to note that males can still feel sadness or guilt, and females can be irritable or angry.

An older article in the journal BJPsych Advances linked feeling angry with the development of depression.

The authors of the article suggest that this anger stems from “narcissistic vulnerability,” which is when a person is extremely sensitive to any perceived rejection or loss.

Experiencing rejection may cause feelings of anger, which can lead to a person fearing that their anger will damage their relationships.

They may then turn this anger toward themselves, which can lead to low self-esteem and depression.

However, there is little research available to support this theory or show that anger can cause depression.

People who experience anger and depression may have some of the following symptoms:

  • irritability
  • hopelessness
  • sadness or emptiness
  • guilt or worthlessness
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • trouble sleeping
  • unexplained changes in weight
  • loss of pleasure or interest in hobbies
  • suicidal thoughts

A person should seek help if their symptoms:

  • start to interrupt their daily life
  • affect their relationships with others
  • seem to be getting worse

If a person has thoughts of hurting themselves or others, they should seek help as soon as possible.

Suicide prevention

  • If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

A doctor may diagnose depression when a person experiences symptoms for more than 2 weeks.

There are different types of depression. A person should discuss all of their symptoms with a doctor to ensure that they receive the correct diagnosis.

Doctors may treat depression or anger with medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

Medication

A doctor may prescribe antidepressants. These drugs can take 2–4 weeks to start working.

Common medications may include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These include fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram, paroxetine, and escitalopram.
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These include venlafaxine, duloxetine, and desvenlafaxine.

According to a 2019 systematic review, sertraline can be effective in treating both depression and anger.

The majority of the studies concluded that many of the individuals who experienced high levels of irritability and anger responded well to sertraline. After roughly 2 weeks, the sertraline appeared to have improved their mood and reduced their feelings of anger.

However, the authors note that not all of the participants responded to this treatment.

Therapy

Therapy involves talking to a mental health professional who may use a variety of approaches.

Some people who struggle with depression and anger may find it beneficial to participate in anger management therapy.

Some types of therapy may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): The aim of this therapy is to help a person recognize their negative thoughts and apply coping strategies.
  • Interpersonal therapy: This therapy may help a person improve how they relate to other people.
  • Psychodynamic therapy: People use this therapy to try to understand the negative patterns of behaviors and feelings that their past experiences have caused.

The most common form of therapy that healthcare professionals recommend for the treatment of anger is CBT. However, a 2018 review suggests that it is only moderately effective.

There is not yet enough research to confirm the effectiveness of therapy in treating anger.

Brain stimulation therapies

If a person still experiences feelings of depression and hopelessness after trying medication and therapy, a doctor may recommend other treatments.

One option is electroconvulsive therapy, which involves transmitting electrical impulses into the brain. This treatment can have side effects, including memory loss.

Doctors may sometimes recommend repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses a magnet instead of electric currents.

Lifestyle changes and natural remedies

Some people may choose to take herbal remedies to treat depression.

However, there is little research to prove that they are effective in treating depression.

Some of the substances that doctors have studied include:

  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • S-adenosylmethionine
  • St. John’s wort

In addition to these supplements, certain lifestyle practices may help lift a person’s mood. These include:

  • engaging in regular exercise
  • spending time with loved ones
  • eating a healthful diet

Some people also report that alternative therapies — such as acupuncture, meditation, tai chi, and yoga — can boost their mood.

Light therapy is another alternative treatment option. It involves exposing a person to a special light box. The light can help regulate the production of melatonin, a chemical that plays a role in a person’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

There is little research to suggest that anger can cause depression. However, it is a symptom that can occur alongside depression.

If a person is struggling with depression, anger, or both, they should talk to their doctor.

Treatments are available that can help a person reduce the symptoms of depression. Some medications can also help reduce feelings of anger and irritability.