Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis Reduced by Drinking Alcohol

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has no cure. It’s a chronic disease that can cause permanent joint destruction and deformity. About 1.5 million people in the United States have the painful disease. Women have nearly three times the risk of rheumatoid arthritis as men. The disease usually begins in women between the ages of 30 and 60. In men it often begins later in life.

Rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of developing other serious medical problems. They include cardiovascular (heart and artery) diseases, lung diseases, osteoporosis (weakened bones), and carpel tunnel syndrome.

Factors that increase the risk of  rheumatoid arthritis include these.

  • Gender. Women are much more likely to develop the disease.
  • Age. RA usually develops between the ages of 40 and 60, although it can begin at any age.
  • Family History. Having RA in an ancestor or other blood relative increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

People can’t change their gender, age or family history. But they can modify their lifestyle. Low to moderate consumption of alcohol for at least 10 years has been found to be associated with a 17% reduction in the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

A major research study examined eight prospective studies published between 1946 and 2013. They contained a total of 195,029 men and women and 1,878 cases of RA.

The scientists found that light to moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. This was true for both men and women.

Earlier research by others has found that drinking alcohol can reduce the severity of RA.


Popular Readings

Arthritis Foundation. Overcoming Rheumatoid Arthritis. What You Can do for Yourself. Atlanta: The Foundation, 1993.

Multz, C. How to Treat Arthritis with Sex and Alcohol.
West Conshohocken, PA: Infinity, 2005.

Sutton, A. Arthritis Sourcebook. Basic Consumer Health Information. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2010.

Scholarly Readings on Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Alcohol

Aho K, and  Heliavaara M. Alcohol, androgens and arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis 1993;52:897.

Cerhan J, et al. Blood transfusion, alcohol use, and anthropometric risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis in older women. J Rheum 2002;29:246-54.

Davis M, et al. Associations of alcohol use with radiographic disease progression in African Americans with recent-onset rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheum. 2013;40:1498-1504.

Di Giuseppe D, et al. Long term alcohol intake and risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women. Brit Med J. 2012;345:e4230.

Hazes J, et al. Lifestyle and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. Ann Rheum Dis. 1990;49:980-2.

Jin Z, et al.  Alcohol consumption as a preventive factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis 2014;73:1962-1967.

Jonsson I-M, et al. Ethanol prevents development of destructive arthritis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2007;104:258-63.

Kahllberg H, et al. Alcohol consumption is associated with decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis 2009;68:222-227.

Lu B, et al. Associations of smoking and alcohol consumption with disease activity and functional status in rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheum 2014;41:24-33.

Maxwell JR, et al. Alcohol consumption is inversely associated with risk and severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheum 2010;49:2140-6.

Scott IC, et al. The protective effect of alcohol on developing rheumatoid arthritis.. Rheum 2013;52:856-867.

Voigt LF, et al. Smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Epidemiology 1994;5:525-32.


Jin, Z., et al.  Alcohol consumption as a preventive factor in developing rheumatoid arthritis: a dose-dependent meta-analysis of prospective studies. Ann Rheu Dis., 2014, 73(11), 1962-1967.


1. Maxwell, J., et al.  Alcohol consumption is inversely associated with risk and severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheum. (Oxford), 2010 49(11), 2140-2146.