Alcohol Abstainers Not at Risk

There's good news for teetotalers. A new report suggests that -- despite past studies -- people who abstain from alcohol are not at a greater risk of premature death compared with those who drink moderately. At least not because they avoid alcohol. Instead, researchers claim that such studies did not adequately control for other risk factors in nondrinkers. For example, the studies lumped former alcoholics and long-term abstainers together in the category of nondrinkers.

The study findings cast some doubt on the conclusions of other research that there are protective effects of light or moderate drinking. These effects have been accepted 'fact' without much attention paid to their many criticisms from the research community. The study did not look at mortality risk in long-term abstainers compared with former drinkers. But such factors may be behind the greater mortality risk seen in abstainers, as opposed to alcohol lowering the mortality risk.

When these factors are statistically accounted for, abstainers of either type are not at higher risk for premature mortality than light drinkers.. In the new study, light drinking was considered one drink per occasion for women and two drinks per occasion for men, with less than 15 occasions per month. What seems clear is the importance of recognizing that abstainers do not constitute a homogeneous group with respect to social position, health or social integration

Addiction (1998;93:183-203)

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