The lower mortality of people drinking moderately compared with teetotallers appears partly explained by factors other than drinking. But even after adjustment for a large number of factors indicate the death of people who drink 1 glass of alcoholic drink per day is still 28% lower than total abstainers.
An American study of 12,519 people aged 55 and older investigated the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of death after adjustment for a large number of other factors such as socioeconomic status (SES), smoking and body weight, functional limitations the elderly (eg mobility and daily activities) and psychological and social factors (eg depression and the importance of religion). They followed the research of 2002 to 2004. At the end of this 4-year follow-up period, 1338 people of the total research had died (10.7%).
After adjustment for demographic factors (age, ethnic background, etc.) the study found that people who daily consume 1 glass of alcoholic drink (beer, wine or spirits) had a 50% lower mortality than total abstainers. The researchers found, as in many previous studies, a U-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and death, people who drink 1 glass of alcoholic drink per day the risk of death was lowest (7%). Non-drinkers had a mortality of 14% and those three glasses or more per day had a death rate of 12%.
After adjustment for traditional risk factors such as smoking and overweight and health status had moderate drinkers have a 43% lower mortality. When the results were adjusted for non-traditional risk factors such as socioeconomic status, functional limitations and psychological and social factors showed that the mortality is still 28% lower than non-drinkers.
The researchers conclude that the link between alcohol consumption and mortality after adjustment for a large number of factors is a U-shaped relation and that moderate drinkers a significantly lower risk of death than teetotallers.
In order to determine with certainty whether this is really a causal relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduction in mortality is a long-term randomised study should be conducted.
Source: Lee SJ et al Functional limitations, socioeconomic status, and all-cause mortality in moderate alcohol drinkers. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2009 (published early online 17 march 2009)