By: Susanna Pilny

Original Source:

A new study out of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health has discovered that black men and women who rarely or never exercised had twice the odds of abusing alcohol, as compared to those who exercised frequently—a finding that may have ramifications across all ethnic groups.

The study, which was presented today at the American Public Health Association meeting in Chicago, analyzed the survey data of 5,002 black men and women. The participants were drawn from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL)—a study that took place from 2001 to 2003 and sought to uncover racial and ethnic differences in mental disorders and other psychological distress.

After adjusting for demographic factors like socioeconomic status and neighborhood characteristics, the researchers found that those who engaged in little to no physical activity had between an 84 and 88 percent higher likelihood of abusing alcohol.

The study is perhaps all the more interesting when considering the fact that, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), black Americans had some of the lowest rates of heavy drinking among American ethnic groups, generally second only to Asians—meaning the trend shown here could possibly be stronger, depending on the group (and sex of the participant).

Moreover, this is one of the first studies to tie these two seemingly separate behaviors together.

“There have been studies of the association between substance use and related comorbid health conditions, such as depression and anxiety,” said author April Joy Damian, a doctoral student in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a statement. “There has been little research that has examined the connection between exercise and decreased odds of alcohol use disorder.”

Spin class isn’t an instant remedy

“Because the NSAL study was essentially a snapshot that was taken at one point in time, we can’t say that engaging in physical activity will prevent people from developing alcohol use disorder or that alcohol use disorder can be treated with physical activity,” Damian clarified.

Nonetheless, it has important implications for further study.

“Given that alcohol use disorder has a high rate of co-occurrence for depression and anxiety, it merits further study all around, for African Americans as well as others. We should consider how physical activity contributes to alcohol-related behavior and design interventions for people who are at risk,” Damian said.

Continue Reading: