What’s the relationship between drinking alcohol and long life?
I. The Study
II. Similar Study
I. The Study
Researchers wanted to know the association between alcohol and long life. So they examined average lifetime alcohol consumption, risk of cancer death, and deaths from all causes.
To do this they used data from 99,654 men and women aged 55-74. All had been in the US Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial.
Researchers knew that drinking alcohol in moderation increases the risk of some cancers. And it reduces that of other cancers. Yet cardiovascular disease kills more people than all cancers combined. Importantly, moderate drinking greatly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. So it’s important to examine the impact of moderate drinking on deaths from all causes combined. That is, on all-cause death.
During the PLCO study, there were 836,740 person-years of follow-up. The study followed people for an average of 8.9 years. There were 9,599 deaths during that study.
The researchers found a J-shaped link between average lifetime alcohol drinking and overall death. As drinking increased, deaths fell. As it increased even more it reached the death level of never drinkers. But at high levels, the risk of death increases higher than that of abstainers.
Thus, drinking alcohol in moderation has an overall benefit for longer life. But consuming at heavy levels has an overall negative effect on having a long life. So the researchers showed that there can be too much of a good thing.
II. Similar Study
These findings are consistent with another large study that followed people for up to 34 years. Those researchers looked at the impact of five lifestyle factors on death.
- Not smoking.
- Appropriate weight.
- Physical activity.
- Drinking alcohol in moderation.
- Eating a balanced diet.
The study found that people who met all five criteria had these benefits.
- Enjoyed an 84% reduction in all-cause death.
- Had an 82% lower cardiovascular disease death rate.
- Had a 65% reduction in cancer death.
- Enjoyed an additional 12 to 14 years of life after 50.2
III. Summary: Alcohol and Long Life
Also, it appears that drinking beer, wine, and spirits (liquor) in moderation are equally effective in health and long life.
IV. Resources on Alcohol and Long Life
- Ford, G. The Benefits of Moderate Drinking. Alcohol, Health, and Society.
- Haerens, M. Alcohol.
- NIAAA. Alcohol Health and Research World (magazine).
- Thomas, M. The Longevity List.
- WHO. Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health.
- Bo, X. et al. Relationship of alcohol consumption to all-cause mortality in U.S. adults. J Am Coll Cardi, 70(8), 913–922.
- 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.
- Kunzmann, A. et al. The association of lifetime alcohol use with mortality and cancer risk. PLoS Med.
- Xi, B. et al. Relationship of Alcohol Consumption to All-Cause, Cardiovascular, and Cancer-Related Mortality in U.S. J Am Coll Card, 70(8), 913-922.