Drinking Alcohol and Risk of Frailty: Good or Bad?

Study on Alcohol and Risk of Frailty

Drinking alcohol and the risk of frailty is an important matter. It could be expected that drinking alcohol reduces risk of frailty. That’s because drinking in moderation or even fairly high levels reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Both diseases contribute greatly to frailty among older men and women.

This prospective study looked at patterns of drinking alcohol and the risk of frailty. A total of 2,086 community-living adults age 60 and older were followed for an average of 3.3 years.

Moderate drinking was defined as consuming slightly under three drinks per day for men. It was  a little under two drinks per day for women. (This is higher than the U.S. federal government’s recommendations.) A Mediterranean drinking pattern was defined as moderate alcohol consumption and only with meals. This is a very loose definition.

alcohol and risk of frailty

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

Frailty was defined as having two or more of following criteria from the Fried frailty index.1  Self-reported exhaustion. Measured muscle weakness. Low level of physical activity. Slow walking speed.

During the follow-up period, 292 participants were identified as having developed frailty. Compared to non-drinkers, moderate drinkers had a 10% reduced risk of becoming frail during the period. Compared with abstainers, those who followed the Mediterranean drinking pattern had a 32% reduction in risk.

Reducing Frailty Important

Reducing the risk of frailty is important. Frailty is a strong predictor of falls, acute illness  disabilities, institutionalization, and death.2  Reducing  frailty would reduce significant burdens on victims, their families, and society.

The researchers concluded that drinking alcohol reduces risk of frailty. And that following a Mediterranean pattern of drinking reduces risk frailty dramatically among older adults.

Bottom line on alcohol and risk of frailty?  Drinking alcohol reduces risk of frailty.


Ortola, R., et al. Patterns of alcohol consumption and risk of frailty in community-dwelling older adults. J Gerontol. Series A, Bio Sci Med Sci, 2015, published online: August 22, 2015.

References on alcohol and risk of frailty.

1. Fried, L., et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol. Series A, Bio Sci Med Sci,2001, 56:M146-M156.

2. van Iersel, M., & Rikkert, M. Frailty criteria give heterogeneous results when applied in clinical practice. J Am Geriat Soc, 2006, 54(4), 728-729.

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid courtesy of Oldways. It, along with the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization, introduced it in 1993. Since then, Oldways has introduced  Latin American, African, Asian, and Vegetarian/Vegan pyramids.