When age and gender were controlled [statistical techniques were used to remove variations among groups] the results showed that compared to moderate drinkers, abstainers had more than twice the risk of dying, heavy drinkers had 70% more risk and light drinkers had 23% more risk. This risk was cumulative over the 20 years that the subjects were followed. Even when all other covariates were controlled, moderate drinking was associated with the lowest mortality rate and abstention with the highest mortality rate.
The authors caution that there are limitations to this study including the following: it was observational and not a true experiment; the drinking data were self-reported [that is, the subjects themselves stated how much they drank]; lifelong abstainers were excluded [the study included only abstainers who had stopped drinking alcohol]; all drinking groups may have experienced episodic heavier drinking, which was not accounted for.
In a Science Daily report, the lead author stressed the word “moderation” and also pointed out that the study should not be interpreted as endorsing the concept that lifelong abstainers should start drinking to live longer.
With science on our side, let’s have cocktails! [See related post on How to Make a Great Vodka Martini.]