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Press release

  • 15 March 2005
  • Binge drinking is worse for women

    Young people who binge drink are more likely to be depressed than their sober counterparts, but women are also more likely to have poor working memory and be less able to control inappropriate behaviour, according to a new study led by the University of Sussex.


    Experimental psychologist Professor Theodora Duka interviewed 100 healthy 18-30-year-olds, who were moderate-to-heavy social drinkers, about their alcohol and drug use, as well as their character traits and mood states.


    She then asked them to perform verbal IQ , working memory and vigilance tasks. These included a spatial working memory task, which required subjects to register their recent  actions (visiting certain places on the computer screen to obtain tokens) and to avoid repeating them (visit the same places) and a vigilance task, which required subjects to withhold an inappropriate response.


    Those individuals identified as binge drinkers reported less-positive moods than did non-binge drinkers.  In addition, female binge drinkers performed worse on the working memory and vigilance tasks than did the female non-binge drinkers. 


    Professor Duka said: "We know that people will self-medicate with alcohol if suffering from anxiety or depression. We now need to find out whether binge drinking will contribute to anxiety and depression and if the effects of binge drinking and mood add together to impair cognitive performance.  We plan to study how such effects of binge drinking on cognition and mood interact with stress."


    Future studies will also involve following binge drinkers for several years to see if the behaviour leads to full alcohol dependence, and also observing those that stop binge drinking to see if they show a reversal of the negative effects.


    Professor Duka has previously shown that binge drinkers have a more chaotic approach to working out strategies, which suggests damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. She has also found that repeated alcohol withdrawal by alcoholics impairs their ability to recognise the emotions of others.


    She said: "We are still trying to work out the extent of the damage caused by binge drinking, but the indications are that it has far-reaching implications for the physical and mental health of individuals."



    Notes for editors 

    "Binge Drinking, Cognitive Performance and Mood in a Population of Young Social Drinkers," appears in, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER), the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. 


    University of Sussex press office contacts: Jacqui Bealing or Maggie Clune, University of Sussex,
    Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, or




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