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Alcohol may boost women's mental health

10th April 2006

Women have been told that having a couple of alcoholic drinks a day can actually improve their mental health.

Scientists from Columbia University say that the women they studied who drank moderately performed better in tasks than non-drinkers or those who had less than one drink a day.

Some 3,298 healthy men and women from New York, chosen at random and with an average age of 69, were involved in the study.

Although no link was found between men's performance and moderate drinking, women who had up to two drinks a day scored 20 per cent higher in the US mini mental state exam (MMSE) than those who did not drink.

"The difference remained after adjusting for risk factors such as income, marital status, race or ethnicity and other vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and cardiac disease," Dr Clinton Wright, lead author of the study, said.

The researchers, who published their study in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, say it is not clear how alcohol helped improve brain functions in women and admitted their were limitations in the scope of the study.

"[The MMSE] is not a very sensitive test and doesn't address a number of cognitive domains that would be assessed by a more sensitive neuropsychiatric evaluation. Such a study is currently ongoing in this cohort," Dr Wright added.

Scientists believe that small amounts of alcohol could slow the build-up of plaque and fatty material in the arteries and may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.