Alcohol and Total Death Risk among Women: Study

Most research has found a J-shaped pattern between alcohol and total death risk. That is, drinking in moderation reduces all-cause death. That’s compared to abstaining. As drinking increases, the risk of death rises to equal that of abstaining. As drinking reaches very high levels, the risk of death rises above that from abstaining.

Some people have argued that the health benefits of moderate drinking are really caused by other factors. Perhaps moderate drinkers have better lifestyles. Perhaps they are healthier. Are less likely to smoke. Or are less likely to be obese. This is a logical suggestion. This suggestion has been tested in many studies. But the J-shaped pattern tends to remain.

Alcohol and Total Death Risk


This study followed 6,916 women from five towns in Sweden. They were 50 to 59 years of age when recruited. They were recruited for four years. Each woman was given a physical exam. She gave a health history and completed a health questionnaire.

Alcohol and total deathThey were followed until death or for about six to nine years.

Researchers found the typical J-shaped relationship. They controlled for body mass index and physical fitness. Also for smoking, education and marital status. They also adjusted for the existence of diabetes and heart disease before screening. Following these adjustments, the J-shape remained.

The researchers conclusion was obvious. There was “a clear J-shaped relation between the amount of alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality.”

This study adds to the strong evidence that drinking in moderation reduces the risk of death.


Di Castelnuovo, A., et al. Alcohol dosing and total mortality in men and women, Arch Int Med.166(22):2437-2445.

Holman, C., et al. Meta-analysis of alcohol and all-cause mortality. Med J Aust, 164(3):141-145.


Midlov, P., et al. Alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality among women. 17 year follow-up studyBMC Pub Health, 16:22.