Study: Alcohol Might Help Seniors Live Longer

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“Getting old,” actress Bette Davis once remarked, “isn’t for sissies.” Physical disabilities, waning energy levels, mental fog… It’s not a pretty picture.

But here’s some good news: A recent study of nearly 8,000 men and women aged 78 to 88 suggests that drinking alcohol at an advanced age might actually increase longevity. (Though this information hasn’t been released, it would be interesting to know where the study subjects live, to see if there’s any correlation with the states where people live the longest.)

Studies into the possible health benefits — or harmful effects — of moderate alcohol consumption are published constantly, often resulting in conflicting recommendations. A modest weekly intake might be good for cardiovascular function, help protect against stroke, and aid in fighting depression. 

On the other hand, according to some sources, the harmful effects of wine, beer, and liquor far outweigh any potential benefits, and a meta-analysis of some 1,300 studies on the subject published last year suggested that no amount of alcohol is safe, under any conditions.

Now, in contrast, a paper entitled “Alcohol Consumption in Later Life and Mortality in the United States”, just published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, reports that researchers have found consistent associations between occasional and moderate drinking and lower mortality rates, compared to lifetime abstainers.

Occasional drinkers are those who consume alcohol less than one day a week and who, when they do drink, limit intake to three drinks daily for men, two drinks for women. Moderate male drinkers, indulging on one or more days per week, imbibe one to three drinks while females have one to two.

The study is based on data gathered from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), considered one of the largest and most rigorous analyses to date of the relationship between alcohol consumption and mortality in the U.S. Information on the drinking habits of participants was collected annually from 1998 through 2014, with interviews of the subjects conducted twice yearly.

While the results of the study may be good news for the older set, its authors stress that there are some health conditions under which no amount of drinking is safe, that the role of moderate drinking in mortality continues to be debated, and that further study of the subject is needed before definitive conclusions can be offered. Those looking for an alternative may look to coffee then. Research has shown that consumed in moderate amounts it can offer many benefits — these are the 18 reasons to drink coffee for your health