There’s a new medical study of the effects of alcohol consumption that finds a surprising result:
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.
My immediate reaction, as an academic, is that I can’t wait for these results to make an appearance in the arguments about campus alcohol policy. That’s going to be simultaneously hilarious and painful.
Both Time magazine and Slate report the news Jeopardy-style, with a headline in the form of a question (“Why do Heavy Drinkers Outlive Non-Drinkers?” and “How Does Booze Extend Your Lifespan?”). I am obviously not a medical doctor, but in the fine tradition of physicists pontificating about other fields, I do have a simple answer to this question:
How does alcohol use make you live longer? Because if you’re drinking alcohol at all, you’re clearly not stressing yourself out trying to follow the latest medical advice. I figure that by itself is good for a substantial reduction in the rate of heart attacks while trying to figure out which kind of cholesterol is the good one, again.
The optimal strategy, by the way (if you don’t want to follow the links), appears to be 2-3 drinks per day. Which means most American college students are all set, provided they stop drinking altogether at 25.