Is moderate drinking really linked to a longer life?

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Does moderate alcohol use reduce mortality risk? Rafa Elias/Getty Images
  • A new study contradicts previous findings that link moderate alcohol consumption to health benefits and a longer life.
  • The researchers found that those who abstain from alcohol may have a higher mortality rate because of risky behaviors in which they engaged earlier in life.
  • The study also shows that people who abstain from alcohol and who have no other risk factors, such as smoking or poor self-reported health, are not statistically more likely to die at an early age than those with low to moderate alcohol intake.

Some recent studies have linked moderate alcohol consumption to health benefits, such as lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Other studies tout potential health benefits of drinking wine and tequila.

However, results of a new study from the University of Greifswald in Germany contradict the idea of drinking alcohol to protect health.

Earlier studies have shown an increased mortality risk in people who abstain from alcohol, compared with individuals who consume low to moderate alcohol amounts. However, the authors of the recent study chalk this up to risky behaviors that people abstaining from alcohol engaged in earlier in their lives.

The study appears in the journal PLOS Medicine.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2019, 85.6% of individuals in the United States aged 18 years or older reported that they had consumed an alcoholic beverage at one time in their life.

The NIAAA also reports that 14.5 million people in the U.S. aged 12 years or older are living with alcohol use disorder (AUD). According to the NIAAA, AUD is “characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”

The NIAAA also notes that about 95,000 people in the U.S. die each year from alcohol-related causes. This makes alcohol the third largest preventable cause of death in the country.

Previous research suggests that people drinking alcohol in moderation live longer than those who do not consume it. Another, older study concludes that men who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a higher life expectancy than individuals who drink alcohol occasionally or heavily.

Prof. Dr. Ulrich John and his team believe their research shows that the lower life expectancy for those who do not drink alcohol compared with those who do can be due

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