Moderate Alcohol Drinking, Health, and Longevity

The moderate consumption of alcohol has long been found associated with better health and greater longevity than either abstinence from alcohol or from heavy or abusive drinking.

Some have suggested that moderate drinkers live longer than abstainers because some abstainers quit drinking because of health problems brought about by heavy drinking -- the so-called "sick abstainer" argument. However, research has found that even when moderate drinkers are compared to life-long abstainers, drinkers tend to live longer.

Others have argued that moderate drinkers might have better health habits than abstainers and/or heavy drinkers. However, research has found that when moderate drinkers and abstainers with the same health habits are compared, moderate drinkers outlive abstainers.

To determine if the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption persists when a large number of other factors are considered, detailed information from 12,519 participants in the Health and Retirement Study was analyzed.

The Health and Retirement Study is a national representative study of people age 55 and older. Collected from each participant was information about age, sex or gender, race, ethnicity, alcoholic beverage consumption, smoking behavior, weight, comorbid conditions, daily activities, mobility, socio-economic status, social support, religiosity, and depressive symptoms. The outcome measure was death within the four-year follow-up period of study.

Even after taking into consideration these possible explanatory factors, moderate drinkers maintained their high survival advantage (longer longevity) over both non-drinkers and heavy drinkers.

Note: This site does not provide medical opinion or advice and none should be inferred.


  • Lee, S.J. et al. Functional limitations, socioeconomic status, and all-cause mortality in moderate alcohol drinkers. Journal of the American Gerontological Society, 2009, 57(6), 995-962.

Filed Under: Longevity

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