Alcohol and Healthy Ageing (Drinking Helps Us Live Longer and Healthier)

Are alcohol and healthy ageing linked? Research has found that drinking alcohol in moderation is associated with longer life. However, researchers looked at whether regular, moderate drinking improves healthy ageing.

The Study

Researchers studied 13,894 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. They assessed them at midlife and followed them over time. Thus, they were able to examine their alcohol consumption in relation to healthy ageing.

The researchers defined healthy ageing (which they call successful ageing) as follows.

  1. Survival to age 70 without having any major chronic disease. That was such things as coronary disease, cancer, stroke, or diabetes.
  2. And surviving without having any major cognitive impairment, physical impairment, or mental health problems.

Only 11% of the women met these criteria.

Results

The Researchers found that moderate drinkers, especially those who consume frequently, are more likely to age healthy. Women who consumed just over 1 to 2 1/2 drinks per day had a 28% greater chance of ageing healthy. That’s in comparison to abstainers or non-drinkers.

According to U.S. federal guidelines, this moderate drinking would be defined as heavy drinking.

Consistent with other medical research, the frequency of drinking was very important. Women who only drank on one or two days each week had relatively little increased chance of healthy ageing. On the other hand, those who drank at least five days each week did much better. They had almost a 50% greater chance of healthy ageing.

What’s a Drink?

A standard drink is a

  • alcohol and healthy aging12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer.
  •  5-ounce glass of dinner wine.
  • Shot (one and one-half ounces) of 80 proof spirits. That’s the usual proof of vodka, tequila, rum, whiskey, etc.

Standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits each contain six-tenths of one ounce of alcohol.

Resources: Alcohol and Healthy Ageing

Books

Holford, P. The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing: How to Live Longer, Look Younger and Feel Great. London: Piatkus, 2012.  

Sharma, R. Live Longer, Live Younger: the 10-step Programme to Healthy Ageing. London: Watkins, 2014.    

Stanner, S. Nutrition and Healthy Ageing. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. 

Reference

Sun, Q., et al. Alcohol consumption at midlife and successful ageing in women. A prospective cohort analysis in the Nurses’ Health Study. PLoS Med 8(9): e1001090.