Healthful Habits Including Moderate Drinking Good for Health and Longevity

Want to be healthier and live longer? Still more medical research suggests how to achieve your goal. It found healthful behaviors including moderate drinking good for health. And also for living longer. Specifically, up to seven years of longer life.

The Three Behaviors

The three behaviors for good health and longer life are simple.

  1. Maintain a reasonable weight.
  2. Don’t smoke tobacco.
  3. Drink alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or spirits) in moderation.

The Study

The researchers used data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study. This is a long-term longitudinal survey of the health habits of Americans age 50 and older.

The investigators studied 14,804 participants. Interviewers had interviewed them every other year for 24 years. The investigators then grouped participants into categories based on three lifestyle behaviors. Those were weight, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Finally, they calculated the estimated life expectancies of each group.

For example, the first category was of those who were not obese, who never smoked, and who drank in moderation. The second was of obese smokers who either drank heavily or rarely/never drank alcohol.

drinking good for healthThe researchers determined significant findings. Participants in the first category live on average about seven years longer than the average of everyone in the study.

The study showed more. Those in the first category can expect to spend their extra years of life in good health. They had the longest delay of disability. Men tended to have their first disability at a mean age of 72.1. That’s about five years later than the whole population. Among women the first disability occurred at about age 75.2. That’s about eight years later than in the whole populations.

Public Health Policy Implications

The researchers call for major policy changes to promote more healthful habits. One said that “by investing in prevention and by individuals making better choices in their health behaviors, we can gain a tremendous amount in overall life expectancy, and also healthy life expectancy.”

He noted that they and others have found an important fact. It is that “individuals who drink moderately tend to have better outcomes compared to those who completely abstain from alcohol and to those who drink very heavily.”

Popular Resources: Alcohol Good for Health

Dasgupta, A. The Science of Drinking: How Alcohol Affects Your Body and Mind. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.

Flanigan, R. and Sawyer, K. Longevity made Simple.  How to Add 20 Good Years to Your Life: Lessons from Decades of Research. Denver: Williams Clark, 2007.

Ford, G. The Science of Healthy Drinking. San Francisco: WAG, 2003.

Katz, R., and Edelson, M. The Longevity Kitchen. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2013.

Peele, S., and Grant, M. Alcohol and Pleasure. A Health Perspective. Routledge 2014.

Preedy, V. Beer in Health and Disease Prevention. Boston: Elsevier, 2009.

Source for Drinking Good for Health

Mehta, N. and Myrskylä, M. The Population Health Benefits Of A Healthy Lifestyle: Life Expectancy Increased And Onset Of Disability Delayed. Health Aff, 2017, 36(8), 1495-1502.

Dr. Neil Mehta is a health policy expert in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. Dr. Mikko Myrskylä is director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany. Both have found moderate drinking good for health and longevity.