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Heavy Drinkers Expected to Live Longer Than Non-Drinkers?

August 31, 2010 · 55 comments

in Health & Fitness

I was reading some health articles on Monday, and an interesting one caught my eye from Time.com.

According to the article, heavy drinkers have a lower risk of death than non-drinkers.

What??

So those that drink excessively are expected to live longer than I am?   I would think that the increased chances of cirrhosis, having an accident while drunk driving, etc would make a heavy-drinking lifestyle much more risky.  Apparently, I am wrong.

According to the study, people should have 1-3 drinks per day, which I have heard about for some time.   (With red wine being the drink of choice.)   I have to say though that I am shocked that studies have shown that the highest risk group for dying were those that did not drink at all.  Part of the theory is that drinking is connected with socializing, and being social is thought to stave off depression.  However, I always thought that many people drank a lot because there were depressed and needed to escape.

So, the good news for people who enjoy drinking moderately is that they live the longest.  I personally do not drink much because I feel so awful the next day.  Even one beer gives me a major headache, so the trade-off is not worth it to me.  However, maybe I need to find an alcohol that agrees with my system.  Even better, I can sit and drink every night, while enjoying a hunk of dark chocolate.

That doesn’t sound so bad after all…

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Penny Frugalista August 31, 2010 at 6:21 am

Mmm, wine and dark chocolate? Sounds heavenly. I’m not a big drinker — there’s no way I could do 1-3 drinks per day. But I do savor a glass of wine or a beer or two now and then!

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Kris August 31, 2010 at 8:32 am

Penny – I agree, I would be a mess if I had 3 drinks a day! I must be getting old!

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Money Reasons August 31, 2010 at 6:42 am

Great find! I heard of the benefits of drinking wine (the tannins and all…), but I didn’t know that just drinking period was better!

The problem with drinking socially is that it is expensive, or at least if it is at a restaurant or bar…

Perhaps I’ll find a good merlot that is reasonably priced and have a drink a few times a week. And then perhaps a beer or two once a week…

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Kris August 31, 2010 at 8:33 am

Money Reasons – Isn’t it terrible that my blog is kind of encouraging people to drink? I was just shocked that those who do not drink at all have the highest mortality rate. I sure hope my doctor doesn’t start scolding me for not drinking enough!

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Money Reasons August 31, 2010 at 6:51 pm

I’m kind of hoping my doctor scolds me for not drinking enough 🙂

I’m actually not a big drinker… I’ll have a single beer (sometimes 2) out on the deck after mowing the lawn. And sometimes I’ll open a bottle of merlot, but since I’m the only one in my family that drinks wine (except for my father-in-law), I have to drink it fairly quickly…

I think your find was excellent! Who knew…

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Kris September 1, 2010 at 10:13 am

Money Reasons – good point, get more encouragement for drinking from the doctor then you are all set!

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Budgeting in the Fun Stuff August 31, 2010 at 11:58 am

I only drink a pina colada or a glass of champagne every month or two (cannot stand most red wines), so I’m gonna croak real early. 😉

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Kris August 31, 2010 at 12:49 pm

We will both be dead early! Guess I better take that European vacation I have been dreaming about.

But what if I get hooked on drinking in France then?

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Budgeting in the Fun Stuff August 31, 2010 at 4:38 pm

According to Simple in France, the drinking may help you understand their humor…

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Kris September 1, 2010 at 10:15 am

BFS – I think everyone should drink so they can understand my humor!

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Lola August 31, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I was at a workshop earlier this month about women and heart disease, led by a cardiologist. He said during the presentation that he’s seen a big increase in women with heart disease in the last ten years (out of 25 years of practice) and he said he was really disturbed by seeing some women in their 30’s of late who have developed heart problems (not congenital, either). He feels most of it is due to women eating more processed food with higher levels of salt and fat (and also weighing more, on average). He also feels women are less active than they used to be because more women work outside the home, and a high percentage of them have sedentary jobs.

Along with the usual “eat better, lose the excess weight, and exercise more,” he had these two tips: take a baby aspirin once a day (after about age 55) and drink 8 to 10 oz of wine each day (at any adult age, ha ha!)to keep plaque from building up in the arteries. I asked if red and white wine offered the same effect, and he said yes, and I asked if grape juice would give the same effect, and he said no, the studies didn’t show grape juice providing the same effect – you gotta have the tannin.

He also recommended having the aspirin and wine with food, because both can be rough on your stomach. And it seems to me that I’ve read that while rates of heart disease are much lower in France, their rate of stomach cancer is higher.

If you get a headache from just one glass of wine, probably your best bet is to drink your serving with food at dinner and then make sure you drink enough water to dilute the alcohol before you got to sleep.

But the big items in preventing heart disease are still the eat right/move more factors!

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Kris August 31, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I wouldn’t be opposed to drinking red wine if I didn’t feel so awful the next day. I have yet to find a wine I can tolerate. Guess I better start taste-testing until I find something that works!

I appreciate the information you provided. I agree that all the processed food we eat is slowly killing us. I eat a lot of produce, but then that isn’t good enough either because it may not be organic.

If anyone has a suggestion of a wine that is easily tolerated, please let me know.

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Carol@inthetrenches August 31, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Can’t resist. The only reason a heavy drinker may live longer is because it is their spouses and children who end up on blood pressure medicine from living with them. Experience can give just as much information as the best of studies. 🙂

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Kris August 31, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Carol – I very much agree. The family of heavy drinkers do pay a steep price. If only we could keep all those drinkers off the road…

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Steph August 31, 2010 at 6:40 pm

My husband drinks a ton of Guinness, but only at home since he has a very strict no drinking and driving policy for himself.
He probably has a healthier liver than I do.(insert eye rolling)
I am fairly antisocial with or without alcohol.
I agree that the drinkers live longer because the rest of us are the ones stressed out by their drinking.
Although, I have never met a very elderly person who drank heavily.

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Kris September 1, 2010 at 10:15 am

Steph – I never really thought about not meeting an elderly heavy-drinker. Maybe they just hide it better?

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Suba @ Wealth Informatics August 31, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I might die very very early then… I don’t drink, may be once or twice a yr a glass of champagne or wine, thats about it. I did know a little bit of wine is good for health (Wine & Chocolate sounds divine!) but didn’t know non-drinkers have the highest mortality rate. Good find!

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Kris September 1, 2010 at 10:13 am

Suba, I won’t live long either. I am going to see if there is a wine I can tolerate though.

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Tracy August 31, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Having a beer or a glass of wine before dinner is considered extremely healthy. I think thats what the article is talking about. It would seriously make zero sense for heavy drinkers to potentially live longer then non drinkers.

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Kris September 1, 2010 at 10:10 am

Tracy, it is true that the moderate drinkers did live longest. However, it did focus on the fact that non-drinkers had the shortest life span. That conclusion also surprised the researchers.

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Squirrelers.com September 1, 2010 at 12:58 am

I saw an article on that same study. It seems hard to believe their conclusion. Heavy drinkers are better off? I think not. How the study was conducted and who the participants were can play such a huge role.

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Kris September 1, 2010 at 10:09 am

Squirreler – it was interesting because they had a broad study and then narrowed it down quite significantly and they found the results to be the same. (The tried to remove outlier situations, like having less money, preexisting conditions, etc).

I just can’t accept though that heavy drinkers live longer than non-drinkers. It seems counter-intuitive for sure.

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Kevin@InvestItWisely September 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Heavy drinkers? Nah. IIRC, one glass of red wine a day has been shown to have some benefits, but I believe the benefits drop off after that.

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Kevin@InvestItWisely September 1, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I rarely drink alcohol, but a bit of red wine and dark chocolate is an indulgence you don’t have to feel guilty about 😉

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Kris September 1, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Kevin, I am looking forward to it, if I can find a wine a can tolerate!

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Kay Lynn September 1, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I read that story and was really surprised! it’s a little hard to believe with all the health problems caused by heavy drinking. I wonder if there will be other studies that back it up.

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Kris September 1, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Kay Lynn – I was very surprised, and kinda bummed since I am not a drinker. I think the researchers were as surprised as the rest of us!

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Ella@Criminal Defense Lawyer LA November 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Although, that study also showed that men shouldn’t drink beer because of the elevated levels of estrogen. I’d like to see the reaction to the avid football watching with their American-brews every Sunday.

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DUI Defense Lawyer LA December 10, 2010 at 1:49 pm

That is interesting that they link drinking to socializing, because isn’t alcohol technically a depressant? I know they say that red wine is good for your health- and trust me- I love a glass or two, but I wouldn’t have thought that people who didn’t drink period were at more risk for a sooner death.

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aaa January 9, 2011 at 8:47 am

>According to the study, people should have 1-3 drinks per day

Heavy drinkers?

This is 0.5-1 beer per day (1-2 American (0.3l, 4%) beers). Heavy drinking is 5x-10x more!

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