Six alcoholic drinks a week 'can mean longer life': Celia Hall on a Danish study which reinforces the view that moderation is better than total abstinence

PEOPLE who have one to six alcoholic drinks a week are likely to live much longer than total abstainers or heavy drinkers who take 70 drinks a week or more.

Numerous research studies have found that moderate drinking is likely to be beneficial, but Danish researchers have gone a step further.

Professor Thorkild Sorensen, of the Copenhagen Institute of Preventive Medicine, and his colleagues can show that low but regular drinking - one to six drinks a week - is the magic quantity for longer life.

Their findings suggest that low to moderate drinking throughout adult years has little effect on lifespan, while not drinking at all may mean that you die sooner than might be expected.

Total abstainers were nearly one and a half times more likely to die in the 10 to 12 years of the follow-up period, and the heavy drinkers who had more than 70 alcoholic drinks a week were nearly two and a half times more likely to die.

For people who drink moderately to heavily, at levels of between 41 and 69 drinks a week, the increased risk of death was the same as that of the teetotallers.

A drink was equivalent to a bottle of beer, a glass of wine or a measure of spirit, between 9 and 13 grams of alcohol.

The researchers go on to estimate that if all the 13,285 men and women in their study had taken one to six alcoholic drinks a week during their adult life - the heavy drinkers drinking less and the abstainers drinking something - then one in eight deaths would have been prevented. This would have increased the life expectancy of the group, in the 10 to 12 years studied, by 12.5 per cent.

Another surprising finding in the Danish study is that the effects of alcohol on the risk of death in men and women are the same, despite the fact that alcohol is held to be more injurious to women, who are more susceptible to cirrhosis of the liver.

'Our analysis revealed no interaction between sex (gender) and alcohol intake on the risk of dying from all causes. Thus the relative risks of dying from alcohol intake were the same for men and women,' they say in tomorrow's edition of the British Medical Journal.

Drinking habits had the same effects on dying whether men and women were young or old, thin or obese, smokers or non-smokers. However, men who were heavy drinkers and both obese and heavy smokers (more than 20 grams of tobacco daily) had a nine times higher risk of death.

In the study supported by the Danish Medical Research Council, the Danish Heart Foundation, the Danish Insurance Association and King Christian X's Foundation, the randomly selected men and women aged 30 to 79 were asked to give their drinking habits on a number of scales from up to one drink a week to 70 or more. The study began in 1976. After 10 to 12 years the researchers looked to see how many in their groups had died.

While one to six drinks a week was the most statistically powerful quantity for longer life expectancy, risk of death increased slowly after that as drinking went up. 'The relative risk of death did not increase significantly until the intake reached 42 to 69 beverages a week at which level the mortality equals that of teetotallers,' Professor Sorensen says.

In the UK, the Department of Health recommends that people should keep their alcohol intake to 21 units a week for men and 14 for women. A unit is equivalent to a glass of wine, a measure of spirit or a half pint of ordinary strength beer. One unit contains eight grams of alcohol.

Leading article, page 15

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobWe are looking ...

Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The Job...Due to continued ...

Supply Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Supply TeachersWould you l...

Job opportunities for SEN teachers and support staff in Essex

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently looking for...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice