Friday, September 17, 2010

Aging - How alcohol is good for you

Numerous studies have shown that non-drinkers tend to die before moderate drinkers. Jonah Lehrer points to a striking (and reassuring to me) long term study that fills in more detail, finding over a period of twenty years that the death rate among non-drinkers is twice that of moderate drinkers. Chunks from the abstract:
The sample at baseline included 1,824 individuals between the ages of 55 and 65. The database at baseline included information on daily alcohol consumption, sociodemographic factors, former problem drinking status, health factors, and social-behavioral factors. Abstention was defined as abstaining from alcohol at baseline. Death across a 20-year follow-up period was confirmed primarily by death certificate.

Controlling only for age and gender, compared to moderate drinkers, abstainers had a more than 2 times increased mortality risk, heavy drinkers had 70% increased risk, and light drinkers had 23% increased risk. A model controlling for former problem drinking status, existing health problems, and key sociodemographic and social-behavioral factors, as well as for age and gender, substantially reduced the mortality effect for abstainers compared to moderate drinkers. However, even after adjusting for all covariates, abstainers and heavy drinkers continued to show increased mortality risks of 51 and 45%, respectively, compared to moderate drinkers.
Leher notes that apart from anti-aging antioxidant or cardiac and circulatory effects of alcohol, a correlation of alcohol and socializing and its chemical correlates (dopamine, oxytocin, etc.) should be considered.

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