Friday, November 5, 2021

Drinking Alcohol To Stay Healthy?

11:13 PM |

A recent study, published in PLOS Medicine on November 2nd, 2021, suggests that the elevated mortality risk associated with current alcohol abstainers could predominantly be attributed to other factors. These may include previous alcohol or drug issues, daily smoking habits, and general poor health. The research was conducted by Ulrich John and his team at University Medicine Greifswald, Germany.

Prior research has implied that individuals who refrain from alcohol may have a higher death rate compared to those who consume alcohol in low to moderate quantities. In this particular study, data from a random sample of 4,028 German adults was analyzed. All participants had partaken in a standardized interview between 1996 and 1997, at the ages of 18 to 64. The data included information on alcohol consumption in the year preceding the interview, and other health, alcohol, and drug use details. The mortality data was gathered 20 years after the initial interview.

Out of the participants, 447 (11.10%) had not consumed alcohol in the 12 months before the baseline interview. Among these abstainers, 405 (90.60%) were ex-alcohol consumers and 322 (72.04%) had at least one other high mortality risk factor. This included previous alcohol-use disorders or risky alcohol consumption (35.40%), daily smoking (50.00%), or fair to poor self-rated health (10.51%). However, 125 alcohol abstinent individuals without these risk factors did not show a significant difference in total, cardiovascular, or cancer mortality compared to low to moderate alcohol consumers. Also, life-long alcohol abstainers had a hazard ratio of 1.64 (95% CI 0.72-3.77) compared to low to moderate alcohol consumers after adjusting for age, sex, and tobacco smoking.

The authors state, "Our results back up the perspective that current alcohol abstainers in the general population don't necessarily have a shorter survival time than the population with low to moderate alcohol consumption. These findings oppose the idea of consuming alcohol for health benefits."

John further notes, "The assumption has always been that low to moderate alcohol consumption might have health benefits based on the notion that alcohol abstainers seemed to die earlier than low to moderate drinkers. We discovered that most abstainers had a history of alcohol or drug problems, risky alcohol consumption, daily tobacco smoking or fair to poor health - factors that are known to predict an early death."

Reference: "Alcohol abstinence and mortality in a general population sample of adults in Germany: A cohort study" by Ulrich John, Hans-Juergen Rumpf, Monika Hanke, and Christian Meyer, 2 November 2021, PLoS Medicine. 

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003819

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