Great news: Heavy drinkers live longer than non-drinkers

posted at 1:27 pm on August 31, 2010 by Allahpundit

Alternate headline: “Blogger going to live forever.”

[A] new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren’t entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one’s risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers’ mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers…

The sample of those who were studied included individuals between ages 55 and 65 who had had any kind of outpatient care in the previous three years. The 1,824 participants were followed for 20 years. One drawback of the sample: a disproportionate number, 63%, were men. Just over 69% of the never-drinkers died during the 20 years, 60% of the heavy drinkers died and only 41% of moderate drinkers died.

These are remarkable statistics. Even though heavy drinking is associated with higher risk for cirrhosis and several types of cancer (particularly cancers in the mouth and esophagus), heavy drinkers are less likely to die than people who have never drunk. One important reason is that alcohol lubricates so many social interactions, and social interactions are vital for maintaining mental and physical health. As I pointed out last year, nondrinkers show greater signs of depression than those who allow themselves to join the party,

New alternate headline: “Blogger not going to live forever after all.” Seriously, though, does the social lubrication theory make sense? My guess is that there are as many heavy drinkers, if not more, among people who are socially isolated as there are teetotalers. Plus, according to Time, the researchers controlled for all sorts of variables — including “number of close friends” and “quality of social support” — and still found higher mortality among non-drinkers. If anything, I’d expect that some significant percentage of teetotalers eschew booze because they’re unusually health-conscious, which should boost the overall group’s lifespan beyond that of a bunch of, um, alcoholics.

I’m honestly interested in an explanation for this. Maybe it has something to do with heavy drinkers needing to depend more on friends and family day to day? Having de facto caretakers keeping an eye on them may provide an early warning system for emerging health problems that teetotalers don’t enjoy. Or does booze itself, even in massive quantities, provide some sort of as-yet-undetermined physical health benefit? Any theories?

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Hope it works out. People are still not wanting to admit what their house is really worth.

Vashta.Nerada on August 31, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Well the Husband likes to look up the appraisal’s, the deeds and so on which is legal here. We know what the house is worth, and if they owe and so on. We are not going to go above a certain price. The owners/sellers know we looked them up. I have a feeling Hubby and I will get it for what we want. And thanks.

upinak on August 31, 2010 at 2:11 PM

1) If you are a teetotaler for anything other than medical reasons, you are probably uptight, because a little wine cheers the heart (this is biblical)

Guilty as charged, on a personal level. On a societal level, I don’t mind people having alcohol, I’m not a Prohibitionist or anything – I simply think that many people cannot control their alcohol.

KinleyArdal on August 31, 2010 at 2:12 PM

Well it isn’t just about the obama speech. I am putting a re-offer in on a house, they sent the offer back at such and such a price… so I am now in BID WARS! I am stressed out, tired and hoping this ends soon… with a cranberry/blueberry/Permafrost Vodka. Yum

upinak on August 31, 2010 at 2:06 PM

Stressful process. Go ahead and get your drink on. Sounds like you need it. Enjoy!

milwife88 on August 31, 2010 at 2:13 PM

milwife88 on August 31, 2010 at 2:10 PM

you are right! Hold on, let me find a harness for the ceiling.

NoDonkey on August 31, 2010 at 2:11 PM

Well here is the funny part. When we get the house.. we are gutting it. Everything is going in new and hard wood baby!

upinak on August 31, 2010 at 2:13 PM

I’ll drink to that headline!

GarandFan on August 31, 2010 at 2:13 PM

I feel sorry for people who don’t drink.

When they wake up in the morning it’s the best they’re going to feel all day.

NoDonkey on August 31, 2010 at 2:17 PM

Nothing is more true..Agree?..:)

Dire Straits on August 31, 2010 at 2:04 PM

Oh, yes, having never been admitted to any “beautiful people” cliques, I definitely agree. :)

Besides, we all get better looking at closing time.

Gang-of-One on August 31, 2010 at 2:18 PM

Who’s joining me for the Obaka drinking game tonight?

ladyingray on August 31, 2010 at 2:19 PM

I’m honestly interested in an explanation for this.

Michael Mann is their statistician?

nukemhill on August 31, 2010 at 2:22 PM

Who’s joining me for the Obaka drinking game tonight?

ladyingray on August 31, 2010 at 2:19 PM

ME! ME! ME!

OT/ Beck’s new site, The Blaze, appears to be down already.

NTWR on August 31, 2010 at 2:23 PM

I have an idea for a little drinking game for Obama’s speech tonight. Every time he says “I” or “me” take a shot of your favorite libation. Of course this needs to be in a social atmosphere. =)

simkeith on August 31, 2010 at 2:25 PM

Besides, we all get better looking at closing time.

Gang-of-One on August 31, 2010 at 2:18 PM

LOL!..Kinda like the music in a bar..the more you drink you go to caring less about the quality of it..You just want it loud!..:)

Dire Straits on August 31, 2010 at 2:25 PM

Did they control for body mass? Three drinks a day – the stipulated limit for moderate drinkers – is moderate for the average person but an NFL lineman could probably down twice that safely – yet be counted as a heavy drinker. I.e., a lot of de facto moderate drinkers may have been included in the heavy drinker sample, mitigating its negatives.

Seth Halpern on August 31, 2010 at 2:34 PM

OT/ Beck’s new site, The Blaze, appears to be down already.

NTWR on August 31, 2010 at 2:23 PM

Works for me…it’s just taking long to load for some reason.

JetBoy on August 31, 2010 at 2:35 PM

90% of all health issues being mental, killing brain cells allows the body to only contract those naturally occurring diseases, thus eliminating self induced illness.

b4itsover on August 31, 2010 at 2:36 PM

Um yeah and smoking is good for your lungs… conspiring men will say many many things… use common sense.

petunia on August 31, 2010 at 2:36 PM

BURP…

dangitt on August 31, 2010 at 2:38 PM

Seth Halpern on August 31, 2010 at 2:34 PM

Exactly true and it’s ridiculous how the try to standardize these things for “male” and “female”, completely ignoring the vast differences in size across the population.

The government’s Body Mass Index are totally ridiculous. If you have decent muscle mass, you’re defined as overweight.

Virtually every professional athlete is classified as “obese” using the federal government’s ratings, it’s absolute nonsense.

NoDonkey on August 31, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Works for me…it’s just taking long to load for some reason.

JetBoy on August 31, 2010 at 2:35 PM

Hmm, I’ll try again, last time it said I was verboten, then the link appeared broken, then the site didn’t exist. It’s happened to a few friends, too.

NTWR on August 31, 2010 at 2:41 PM

Instead of a shot of liquor after every Obama’s I or Me tonight, take a shot for every lie he tells. The I’s and Me’s will be intertwined in every lie so every lie will have several I’s and Me’s. By reducing to shots for lies only, you have a chance of not being too drunk to find your own bed. The truth is that with shots after lies only, you should be so enibriated after the first few minutes your perception of reality will be so skewed, you might even be considered a liberal until you sober up.

volsense on August 31, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Does this include the sober, health-concious people killed while jogging by a heavy drinker who was driving?

DrAllecon on August 31, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Hmm, I’ll try again, last time it said I was verboten, then the link appeared broken, then the site didn’t exist. It’s happened to a few friends, too.

NTWR on August 31, 2010 at 2:41 PM

Seems to be working now. I tried it earlier today, and couldn’t get it to work.

Cody1991 on August 31, 2010 at 2:50 PM

When you drink you laugh, or cry, no matter, both are good for the soul :) I know, cause I drink and sometimes I laugh and cry at the same time! But what is heavy drinking, is that more or less then one bottle of wine a night?

nwpammy on August 31, 2010 at 3:04 PM

There should be a major caveat tagged onto that headline:

IF they don’t suffer from liver failure first!

Jarhead68 on August 31, 2010 at 3:14 PM

Germs cause disease. Alcohol kills germs.

Cogito ergo sum.

JayHaw Phrenzie on August 31, 2010 at 3:19 PM

Seth Halpern on August 31, 2010 at 2:34 PM

Exactly true and it’s ridiculous how the try to standardize these things for “male” and “female”, completely ignoring the vast differences in size across the population.

The government’s Body Mass Index are totally ridiculous. If you have decent muscle mass, you’re defined as overweight.

Virtually every professional athlete is classified as “obese” using the federal government’s ratings, it’s absolute nonsense.

NoDonkey on August 31, 2010 at 2:40 PM

The Body Mass Index IS ridiculous, but for a reason some may not expect. The BMI is defined as weight in kilograms divided by height (in meters) squared, which would be fine if people were flat, two-dimensional creatures.

But since a human body is mostly water, its weight is proportional to its volume. As a child grows in height, his/her lateral width (left-to-right) and front-to-back thickness should increase proportionally in order to maintain the same relative bone and muscle strength, and the necessary volume of vital organs. A more accurate measure of BMI would be body weight divided by height CUBED (to the third power), which would still screen out overweight people due to a disproportionate front-to-back dimension, usually between the rib cage and the waist.

The current BMI tends to label most tall people as overweight, but cuts a lot of slack for short, chubby people. A BMI of 25 is considered the dividing line between normal and overweight, but according to that measure, a person 5 ft (1.524 m) tall should weigh less than 58 kg (128 lb), a person 5’6″ (1.676 m) tall should weigh less than 70 kg (155 lb), a person 6 ft tall (1.829 m) should weigh less than 83.6 kg (184 lb), and a person 6’6″ tall (1.981 m) should weigh less than 98 kg (216 lb). It’s probably fairly easy for a 5’6″ woman to keep her weight below 155 lb, but a 6’6″ man weighing only 216 lb would be EXTREMELY thin, and anyone that size who did physical labor would be much heavier due to muscle mass.

Taken to the extreme, a newborn baby 20 inches (0.508 m) long with a BMI of 25 would weigh 6.45 kg, or 14 lb 3 oz. Most healthy newborns are (thankfully for their mothers!) much lighter, but this illustrates the fallacy of the BMI. Since the BMI favors short people over tall people, a lot of chubby children can still have “normal” BMI’s and not be diagnosed as overweight until it’s more difficult to lose the weight.

Steve Z on August 31, 2010 at 3:21 PM

I’ll dchrinnnk t-t-tchoo th-h-had….

CynicalOptimist on August 31, 2010 at 3:24 PM

Slow news day.

Shouldn’t that be “Sloe news day”? (Ha!)

Oh, all right, booo or ewww.

DrMagnolias on August 31, 2010 at 3:25 PM

Obama is not such a bad president after all since he is helping me prolong my life by making me drink all night!

cire_kram on August 31, 2010 at 3:27 PM

DrAllecon on August 31, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Exactly, it’s much healthier to stay home and drink than breathe all of those nasty auto fumes and get in the way of people driving to and from the bar.

NoDonkey on August 31, 2010 at 3:32 PM

This is a load of crap! Every heavy drinker that I have known is DEAD, and I am still here! One friend really comes to mind. This guy was the same age I am, and he drank like a fish. About 5 years ago his pancreas gave out, and a year after that I was helping his mother put him in the ground!

Confederate on August 31, 2010 at 3:32 PM

Social drinkers are willing to moderate their behaviour to fit in with a group.

Non-drinkers have stricter boundaries. Doesn’t make them bad people. It’s just evidence that they aren’t as willing to go along to get along.

Same for alchoholics. How many started drinking in the closet. Probably none. They started drinking because they wanted to fit in, then it got out of hand.

It can play out in a lot of ways. Non-drinkers may refuse to take a medication and stick to their guns. They may insist on being self-sufficient when they should accept a helping hand.

Well, it’s a theory anyway.

notagool on August 31, 2010 at 3:34 PM

If you don’t drink, you don’t live longer, it just seems like it.

saiga on August 31, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Steve Z on August 31, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Isn’t it true that athletes have a greater percentage of water in their bodies than non-athletes and wouldn’t that also contribute to their being classified as “overweight” as far as BMI?

Just seems like a really dull tool, this BMI thing.

NoDonkey on August 31, 2010 at 3:39 PM

notagool on August 31, 2010 at 3:34 PM

To be frank, I’ve not met a non-drinker who had much of a personality to begin with, or a sense of humor.

And no, I don’t think alcohol would have helped.

NoDonkey on August 31, 2010 at 3:47 PM

IF they don’t suffer from liver failure first!

Jarhead68 on August 31, 2010 at 3:14 PM

.

Meh. Livers are overrated.

ronsfi on August 31, 2010 at 4:01 PM

Most Libs I know are tea totallers. Depressed and perpetually angry about something.. or something.

Some Cuervo Gold would do them wonders.

44Magnum on August 31, 2010 at 4:13 PM

44Magnum on August 31, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Hitler was a teetotaler and a vegetarian.

Normal people from Austria drank beer and ate sausages and didn’t start WWII.

NoDonkey on August 31, 2010 at 4:21 PM

Interesting comments, but seriously, if alcohol was 100% bad, humans would have died out a long time ago. Until recently, most cultures only drank fermented beverages because water wasn’t reliably clean and disease free. Drinking lots of water still seems to be mainly an American habit, I sure didn’t see a lot of it in Europe.

Since all alcoholic beverages are made from some kind of plant material, it stands to reason that some of those micro nutrients make it into the final product. That’s why red wine is heart healthy.

I also wonder about drinking habits over a lifetime. Heavy drinking during the typical college/young adult years, more moderate drinking after that with some periods of no alcohol due to illness, pregnancy, or ‘just not into it right now’. I think that’s more typical than heavy drinking for an entire lifetime or no drinking for an entire lifetime.

Common Sense on August 31, 2010 at 6:46 PM

*burp*

Alcohol ish a preshervative, ya know.

backwoods conservative on August 31, 2010 at 6:49 PM

social interactions are vital for maintaining mental and physical health

So that explains why I’m crazy but, I should be dead by now if it were accurate.

boomer on August 31, 2010 at 7:13 PM

Common Sense on August 31, 2010 at 6:46 PM

I think you are correct. I had a cousin who drank heavily most of his life and because of that he didn’t make it past 42. His brother who did the same didn’t even make it that far.

boomer on August 31, 2010 at 7:15 PM

I got a fevah. And the only prescription is more cowbell!!!!!

Colorado Anne on August 31, 2010 at 9:12 PM

And jello shots.

Colorado Anne on August 31, 2010 at 9:13 PM

I had a landlord that swore the secret to a long life was a shot of wiskey in the morning with raw hamburger meat. Who knows, he was 85 when we moved away.

TXDadof3 on September 1, 2010 at 8:10 AM

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