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Moderate Drinking Linked to Lower Mortality Risk in Seniors

Last Updated: August 25, 2010.

In older adults, moderate drinking is associated with lower mortality risk than abstention, heavy drinking, and perhaps even light drinking, according to a study published online Aug. 24 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- In older adults, moderate drinking is associated with lower mortality risk than abstention, heavy drinking, and perhaps even light drinking, according to a study published online Aug. 24 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Charles J. Holahan, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin, and colleagues followed 1,824 current or former drinkers (1,142 men and 682 women), aged 55 to 65 years, for 20 years. The researchers surveyed the groups to determine demographics, daily alcohol consumption, former problem-drinking status, health, and social/behavioral factors. Deaths in the cohort were determined through death certificates.

Controlling for gender and age, the researchers estimated that, compared to moderate drinkers, abstainers had more than double the mortality risk, while heavy drinkers and light drinkers had 70 and 23 percent increased mortality risk, respectively. Using a model that also included former problem drinking status, health problems, sociodemographics, and social/behavioral factors, abstainers and heavy drinkers still showed higher mortality risks -- of 51 and 45 percent, respectively -- compared to moderate drinkers. The increased mortality risk for light drinkers was not considered significant.

"Current abstainers in this sample included many former problem drinkers, individuals with more health problems, and individuals characterized by both sociodemographic and social/behavioral factors associated with higher mortality. However, even after taking account of all of these traditional and nontraditional covariates, moderate alcohol consumption continued to show a significant, though attenuated, association with lower mortality risk," the authors write.

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