The next time you're enjoying an alcoholic beverage, toast to your good health as research shows moderate alcohol drinkers live longer than people who abstain from alcohol completely.
Scientists from the University of Texas tracked 1,824 volunteers aged 55 to 65 for a 20 year period. They looked at non-drinkers (called teetotalers), heavy drinkers, and moderate drinkers.
Their study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that regular moderate drinkers outlived non-drinkers.
Teetotalers were defined as people who never drank, or those who had drank in the past, but quit drinking. Heavy drinkers were those who drank 4 or more drinks daily, while moderate drinkers consumed one to three drinks a day.
Among the teetotalers, only 31 percent survived to the end of the 20th year. Among the heavy drinkers, 40 percent, and the moderate drinkers, 59 percent.
While the researchers don't have an explanation for their findings, an article from Time magazine offers a couple of theories.
Firstly, non-drinkers tend to be in a lower socioeconomic class because drinking can be costly, especially in social settings such as at pubs and bars. There is a known connection between being poor and a lower life expectancy.
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Secondly, if moderate drinking involves red wine, that might account for a slightly longer life because of the associated heart health benefits of resveratrol.
And while Alcoholics Anonymous offers one explanation, mainly that many teetotalers used to be alcoholics who have incurred past health problems, the Time article points out that the researchers accounted for this variable in their study. Teetotalers, regardless of whether they used to be alcoholics, still had a lower life expectancy than moderate and heavy drinkers.
But don't let the results of this study fool you. Sorry to say ladies, but recklessly downing your favourite bottle of Shiraz every night is not your ticket to a long and healthy life.
Remember, heavy drinking is associated with a higher risk of liver problems and some types of cancer.