Booze, Health Benefits, Live Longer

Heavy Drinkers Outlive Nondrinkers, Study Finds

8 Comments 30 August 2010

By JOHN CLOUD | TIME

One of the most contentious issues in the vast literature about alcohol consumption has been the consistent finding that those who don’t drink actually tend to die sooner than those who do. The standard Alcoholics Anonymous explanation for this finding is that many of those who show up as abstainers in such research are actually former hard-core drunks who had already incurred health problems associated with drinking.

But a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren’t entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one’s risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers’ mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers.

Moderate drinking, which is defined as one to three drinks per day, is associated with the lowest mortality rates in alcohol studies. Moderate alcohol use (especially when the beverage of choice is red wine) is thought to improve heart health, circulation and sociability, which can be important because people who are isolated don’t have as many family members and friends who can notice and help treat health problems.

But why would abstaining from alcohol lead to a shorter life? It’s true that those who abstain from alcohol tend to be from lower socioeconomic classes, since drinking can be expensive. And people of lower socioeconomic status have more life stressors — job and child-care worries that might not only keep them from the bottle but also cause stress-related illnesses over long periods. (They also don’t get the stress-reducing benefits of a drink or two after work.)

But even after controlling for nearly all imaginable variables — socioeconomic status, level of physical activity, number of close friends, quality of social support and so on — the researchers (a six-member team led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin) found that over a 20-year period, mortality rates were highest for those who had never been drinkers, second-highest for heavy drinkers and lowest for moderate drinkers.

The sample of those who were studied included individuals between ages 55 and 65 who had had any kind of outpatient care in the previous three years. The 1,824 participants were followed for 20 years. One drawback of the sample: a disproportionate number, 63%, were men. Just over 69% of the abstainers died during the 20 years, 60% of the heavy drinkers died and only 41% of moderate drinkers died.

Read more at TIME.com

Your Comments

8 Comments so far

  1. Kbeardog says:

    Nice Nipple in the pic!!

  2. Dr Death says:

    I bury heavy drinkers all the time, alcoholism kills, you people are fucking crazy

  3. elaine says:

    yeh that’s right, because other people have to shoulder, the drinkers responsibilitys, adding stress to thier own lifes. Drinkers just party and have fun , p— on the rest of us.

  4. Rich says:

    I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

  5. Bub says:

    I’ll drink to that!!!!!

  6. Franklin Cameron says:

    Last time this information was published, a group that was not eliminated from the nondrinking group were people who had quit drinking because they have been big drinkers in the past and had developed health problems. Including their mortality statistics with those of nondrinkers brought the mortality ratings of nondrinkers down. Has this been corrected in this new study?

    Also, grape juice has the same beneficial affect on health as wine. It’s the virtuousness of the grape not the wine itself that is so healthful.

    Was this study financed by the alcohol industry?

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