Drinking and Women’s Health: Alcohol’s Long-Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of alcohol drinking and women’s health? This is a very important question.

Drinking and Women’s Health

Researchers from Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center studied this very important question. To do so, they reviewed findings from the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II. These are among the largest sources of data in the world on major diseases in women.

The Nurses’ Health Study began in 1976. The Nurses’ Health Study II began in 1989. Both studies involve periodically collecting facts about lifestyle habits, other behaviors, and personal characteristics. This is done about every four years.

Researchers have analyzed the importance of such things as risk factors for various diseases and conditions. Both studies also have detailed facts on alcohol drinking patterns.

The great advantage these two studies is that they collect information about the same women for decades. And it’s from hundreds of thousands of women. Also the information is very detailed. Thus, it’s possible to take into consideration smoking, obesity and other possible risk factors.


drinking and women's healthThe review of the research revealed a clear pattern. That is, moderate drinking by women is associated with a much lower risk of major health problems. These include high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, sudden cardiac death, gallstones and cognitive decline. That’s compared to either abstainers or heavy drinkers. But compared to abstainers there’s an increase in breast cancer. (About 3% of women die of breast cancer.)

Most important, moderate drinking leads to lower from any cause (all-cause death). Women who drink in moderation tend to live longer.

The benefits of moderate drinking increase if women drink at least four days per week.


Popular Books

Carlson, K., et al. The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health. Cambridge: Harvard U Press.

Norsigian, J. Our Bodies, Ourselves. NY: Touchstone.

Olshansky, E., and Prevost, S. Women’s Health. Philadelphia: Saunders/Elsevier.

Thurston, W., et al. Rural Women’s Health. Toronto: U Toronto Press.

Source: Drinking and Women’s Health

Mostofsky, E., et al. Key findings on alcohol consumption and a variety of health outcomes from the Nurses’ Health Study. Am J Pub Health, 2016, 106(9), 1586-1591.