Drinking Alcohol: Reduced Risk and Severity of Rheumatoid Arthritis

A medical research study involving 873 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 1,004 healthy controls found that alcohol consumption has an inverse association with both risk and severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Risks were calculated according to alcohol consumption, adjusted for age, gender and smoking status.

After adjustment for potential confounding factors in a multivariate regression model, frequency of alcohol consumption remained significantly and inversely associated with both objective (X-ray damage) and subjective (standardized self-report) measures of rheumatoid arthritis.

"We found that patients who had drunk alcohol most frequently had symptoms that were less severe than those who had never drunk alcohol or only drunk it infrequently," said lead author Dr. James Maxwell. He added that "X-rays showed there was less damage to joints, blood tests showed lower levels of inflammation, and there was less joint pain, swelling and disability."

Non-drinkers were four times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than people who drank alcohol on more than ten days a month. The risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis decreased according to the frequency of alcohol consumption.

"This finding agrees with the results from previous studies that have shown a decreased susceptibility to developing RA among alcohol drinkers," Dr. Maxwell said. It is also consistent with much research on animals.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious disease and one in five people in the United States has been diagnosed with the often debilitating condition.

Note: This website provides no recommendations for drinking alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis or for any other health or medical matter and none should be inferred.


  • James R. Maxwell, Isobel R. Gowers, David J. Moore, Anthony G. Wilson. Alcohol consumption is inversely associated with risk and severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology, July 28, 2010; doi: doi:10.1093/rheumatology/keq202.

Readings on Drinking Alcohol and Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

  • Aho, K., and Heliovaara, M. Alcohol, androgens and arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatoid Diseases, 1993, 52(12), 897.
  • Cerhan,J.R., et a. Blood transfusion, alcohol use, and anthropometric risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis in older women. Journal of Rheumatology, 2002, 29(2), 246-246.
  • Hazes, J.M., et al. Lifestyle and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis: cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 1990, 49(12), 980-982.
  • Kallberg, H., et al. Alcohol consumption is associated with decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis: results from two Scandinavian case-control studies. Annals of the Rheumatoid Diseases, 2009, 68(2), 222-228.
  • Myllykangas-Lusojarvi, R., et al. Reduced incidence of alcohol related deaths in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatoid Diseases, 2000, 59, 75-76.
  • Turesson, Carl. Increased Alcohol Intake Associated with Decreased Risk of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis. (Abstract) Paper presented at the annual European Congress of Rheumatology. Barcelona, Spain. June 13-16, 2007. European League Against Rheumatism, June 15, 2007.
  • Voigt, L.F., et al. Smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Epidemiology, 1994, 5(5), 525-532.

Filed Under: Alcohol and Health