What’s the link between drinking alcohol and all-cause death risk? Does it depend on how much is consumed? On whether it’s beer, wine, or spirits (liquors)?
Focusing on death risk from all causes is logical. Many people are concerned with how long they live. They don’t care what’s written on their death certificate.
Researchers studied 111,511 persons. The scientists followed them for as long as nine years. During that time 3,364 died. Of course, all mortalities were all-cause deaths.
The researchers found a J-shaped relationship between alcohol and all-cause death risk. Compared to abstainers, all-cause death risk dropped among moderate drinkers. But it began increasing with heavy drinking. With very heavy drinking, risk continued up. It was higher than abstaining. Hence, the J-shaped pattern.
The investigators controlled potential confounders. These included sex, race, age, and education. Also tobacco smoking, weight (body mass index), and family income. But none changed the findings.
The researchers didn’t look at any effects of the form of alcohol and all-cause death risk. That is, whether it made any difference if people drank beer, wine, or spirits. But research has generally found that the most beneficial part of alcoholic drinks is the alcohol itself. So it’s unlikely that the form of alcohol consumed made any difference in the death risk from all causes.
- Plunk, A., et al. Alcohol consumption, heavy drinking, and mortality. Alc Clin Exper Res, 38(2), 471-8.
- Di Castelnuovo, A., et al. Alcohol dosing and total mortality. An updated meta-analysis of 34 prospective studies. Arch Int. Med., 166(22):2437-2445.
- Holman, C., et al. Meta-analysis of alcohol and all-cause mortality. Med J Austral., 164(3):141-145.
- Howie, E, et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in men. J Aging Res.
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