Alcohol and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Are They Related?

Alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an important concern. Most people drink alcohol. At the same time, many people have RA.


          1. Rheumatoid Arthritis
          2. Research Evidence
          3. Resources

I. Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA is a chronic or long-lasting disease. It’s inflammatory in nature. (In fact, “arthritis” means joint inflammation.) The immune system attacks the body for reasons doctors don’t understand. In effect, the body attacks itself.

Almost one in five people has the disease in the U.S. Perhaps a billion people around the world suffer it. RA can also lead to other diseases that can cause death

A. Risk Factors

A risk factor increases the chance of getting a disease. But it doesn’t fate it. Some people have many risk factors without getting a disease. On the other hand, some people have the disease without any of the risk factors. Facts that increase the risk of RA include these.

    • Age. Ageing increases the risk.  
    • Sex. Women are twice or more likely to have RA.
    • Family history of RA.
    • Smoking.
    • Women who have never given birth.
    • Obesity.
    • Not drinking alcohol.

B. Symptoms

Signs of RA may include any of these.

    • Pain, tenderness, stiffness, or swelling in more than one joint.
    • The same symptoms on both sides of the body. For example, in both hands or both hips.
    • Weight loss.
    • Tiredness
    • Weakness
    • Fever

Of course, these can be signs of other diseases. So it’s important to see a doctor to make sure.

II. Research Evidence

Could drinking alcohol cause RA? Fortunately, many researchers have studied this matter. In addition, others have examined the research findings. Scientists have made three different reviews and summaries of the research evidence. We briefly describe each of these reviews.

alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis
Standard Drinks
    1. Scientists analyzed four studies with 9,425 cases to find the effects of alcohol on risk of RA.1 They found that for every 50 grams of alcohol consumed per week, the risk of RA decreased by 8%. Fifty grams is a little over four standard drinks. 
    2. Researchers analyzed data from nine studies.2 They found a 22% lower risk of RA among drinkers in comparison to abstainers.
    3. Doctors also examined eight prospective studies.3 The studies had a total of 195,029 people. They found that light to moderate alcohol drinking reduces the risk of RA by 17%.

So the link between drinking alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis is clear. Drinking alcohol lowers the risk of getting RA. Of course, drinking doesn’t prevent it in everyone.

III. Resources Alcohol and Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA = Rheumatoid Arthritis

Popular Readings & Videos
    1. Ye, D. et al. Lifestyle factors associated with the incidence of RA in U.S. adults. BMJ open, 11(1), e038137.
    2. Scott, I. et al. The protective effect of alcohol on RA. A review. Rheu, 52(5), 856-867.
    3. Jin, Z. et al. Alcohol consumption as a preventive factor for RA. Ann Rheu Dis, 73(11), 1,962-1,967.
    • This site gives no advice about alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis. Please see your doctor with questions.