Heavy-drinking civil servants who round off their working days over a large G&T or two live longer than their teetotal colleagues, according to the largest and longest study of Whitehall staff.
Although moderate drinking is known to be good for health, the findings show that, among women, heavy drinking is better still. The heaviest female drinkers, consuming over three and a half bottles of wine a week, had a 10 per cent lower risk of dying prematurely than the moderate drinkers.
Among men, the heaviest drinkers, consuming more than 16 pints of beer a week, had a lower risk of developing heart disease than the moderate drinkers, by a margin of 6 per cent.
The surprise results come from the Whitehall II study, which has monitored the health of more than 10,000 civil servants aged 35 to 55 for 11 years. The study was led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot of University College London.
For the study of alcohol consumption, the 7,000 men and 3,300 women civil servants were screened regularly and filled in questionnaires, with deaths recorded by the NHS Central Registry.
The results, published in the journal Addiction , suggest the Government's "safe" drinking limits might need revision. The limits are two to three units of alcohol a day for women, equivalent to a maximum of 21 a week, and three to four units a day for men, equivalent to a maximum of 28 units. A unit is equivalent to half a pint of ordinary beer, a small glass of wine or a single measure of spirits.
Men who drank moderately, up to 10 units a week, had the lowest risk of dying from any cause, at half the risk of those who never drank. But among women, the heaviest drinkers consuming more than 21 units a week, had the lowest overall death rate. However, women who drank heavily had a 57 per cent higher risk of heart disease than those who drank moderately.
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