The study assessed 1,045 patients hospitalised after traumatic injury, for patterns of alcohol consumption before and three months after the accident.
This was compared with the level of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) one week after the accident and at three months.
Researchers from University of Adelaide (U-A) found that moderate alcohol consumption before and after the accident predicted lower levels of psychological distress.
Conversely, both abstinence from alcohol and high levels of drinking produced poorer mental health outcomes.
“Rather than suggesting abstinence following exposure to traumatic events…, the importance of moderate drinking should be emphasised as this behaviour may have some benefit in minimising distress,” says Alexander McFarlane, professor at U-A, who led the study.
A small group of patients showed a link between more severe PSTD and the emergence of alcohol abuse, suggesting “self-medication”, says an U-A release.
These findings have been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.