Previous studies have suggested that people who abstain from alcohol have a higher death rate than those who drink low or moderate amounts of alcohol .
In a new study , the researchers used data from a random sample of 4,028 German adults who had participated in a standardized interview conducted between 1996 and 1997, when the participants were between 18 and 64 years old. The objective was to find out if alcohol really had something to do with this difference in mortality .
Identifying the true cause
Baseline data on alcohol use in the 12 months prior to the interview, as well as other information on health, alcohol and drug use, were available. Mortality data were available from the follow-up 20 years later .
Among the study participants, 447 (11.10%) had not drunk alcohol in the 12 months prior to the initial interview. Of these abstainers, 405 (90.60%) were former alcohol users and 322 (72.04%) had one or more risk factors for higher death rates, including a previous alcohol use disorder or risk use alcohol (35.40%), daily smoking (50.00%), or self-rated health from fair to poor (10.51%).
The 125 people abstinent from alcohol without these risk factors showed no statistically significant difference in total, cardiovascular, or cancer mortality compared to low-to-moderate alcohol users and those who had abstained from alcohol throughout. They had a lifetime hazard ratio of 1.64 (95% CI 0.72 to 3.77) compared to low-to-moderate alcohol users after adjusting for age, sex, and smoking.
According to the researchers, then:
The results support the view that people who currently abstain from alcohol do not necessarily have a shorter survival time than the population with low to moderate alcohol consumption. The findings speak against recommendations to drink alcohol for health reasons.