Dr. Stanton Peele points out a simple fact. It’s that alcohol abstaining is dangerous to health and long life. Abstainers tend to have poorer health than moderate drinkers. They also tend to die sooner. In fact, not drinking is a risk factor for poor health and earlier death. Perhaps, he says, health agencies should warn the public about not drinking.
A New York Times article revealed widening gaps in life expectancy according to income, race, sex, education and geography. The declining life expectancy is linked with abstinence from alcohol.
Researchers “found that life expectancy actually declined in a substantial number of counties.” Worst off are poor Southern women, who are the Americans least likely to drink. They can’t match the continued health gains among better-off men and women in New England states. These are most likely to drink.
National surveys collect telling data. Most likely to drink are men (62%), whites (60%), and college grads (67%). And most likely to drink by location are New Englanders (64%) and urbanites (58%).
Least likely are women (48%), African Americans (45%), and those without a high school diploma (36%!). Also those living in East South Central (42%) and rural regions (48%) are least likely.
United Health Foundation
The United Health Foundation compiles a list of states by health rankings. Four of the five healthiest states are among the leaders in percentage of drinkers. Starting with the healthiest, they are the following. Vermont (64%), Minnesota (#2 in health, 60% drinkers), New Hampshire (#4, 64%), and Connecticut (#5, 66%).
Likewise, four of the five least healthy states are at the low end of drinking. They are Mississippi (#50, 38%), Arkansas (#48, 40%), Oklahoma (#47, 41%), and Tennessee (#46, 33%). In all of the healthiest five states, a majority drinks. In all the unhealthiest states, a minority does. The average percentage of drinkers in the healthiest states is 61%. The average in the least healthy, 40%.
Moderate Drinkers Live Longer
Scientists have long known that regular moderate drinkers tend to live longer than abstainers. Virtually all accept that alcohol itself (all forms of beverage alcohol) prolongs life. A handful of argue that it is not alcohol that makes people live longer. That it is the fact that drinkers eat better, exercise, control their weight, and don’t smoke. They say that accounts for their longer lives. But even this minority view is that moderate drinkers are the healthiest overall.
Those who follow warnings that people shouldn’t drink actually suffer the poorest health. Shouldn’t public health agencies be warning about not drinking instead?
Resources: Alcohol Abstaining is Dangerous to Health
- Ford, G. The Benefits of Moderate Drinking.
- Haerens, M. Alcohol.
- NIAAA. Alcohol Health and Research World (mag).
- Thomas, M. The Longevity List.
- Skovenborg, E. et al. Benefits and hazards of alcohol – the J-shaped curve and public health, Drug Alco Today, 21(1), 54-69.
- Van den Brandt, P. and Brandts, L. Alcohol consumption in later life and reaching longevity. Age Age, 49(3), 395–402.