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Older Adults Who Drink Moderately May Live Longer, Study Says

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Moderate drinkers live longer than both non-drinkers and heavy drinkers, even when other health and demographic factors are considered, according to a recent study, Bloomberg News reported Sept. 1.

Investigators at the University of Texas and Stanford University studied the mortality rates of 1,824 adults aged 55 to 65 over a 20-year period. They found that moderate drinkers, who had fewer than three drinks a day, lived longer than either abstainers or those who had three or more drinks a day.

Past research on alcohol and mortality could have been skewed by abstainers who were former problem drinkers in poor health, according to Charles Holahan of the University of Texas and colleagues, who removed abstaining, former-problem drinkers from their study sample. They found that older-adult abstainers were 49% more likely to die than moderate drinkers, and heavy drinkers were 42% more likely to do so, even when controlling for other health and demographic factors impacting mortality.

However, the authors cautioned that drinking placed older adults at higher risk of other health consequences, such as an increased number of falls, medication side effects, and alcohol abuse.

The authors noted that information on their subjects’ drinking habits was taken only at the beginning of the study period, and that use likely declined over time. The sample, which excluded lifetime abstainers, was 91% Caucasian, 3% African American, 2% Hispanic, 1% Asian American, and 1% Native American; 2% were from other ethnic backgrounds.

The study appeared online Aug. 24 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and will appear in the print edition in November.

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