Alcohol consumption and its effect on “successful aging”

Studies have documented an association between moderate alcohol consumption and longevity.

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, studied whether moderate alcohol intake is associated with overall health and well-being in older age.

First, the details.

  • Alcohol consumption at midlife among female nurses was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire.
  • Subsequently, successful aging was defined in 13,894 women who survived to age 70 or older, and whose health status was continuously updated.
  • “Successful aging” was considered being free of 11 major chronic diseases and having no major cognitive impairment, physical impairment, or mental health limitations.
    • The participants are part of the Nurses’ Health Study, among the largest and longest running investigations of factors that influence women’s health.

And, the results.

  • Of all eligible study participants, 11% achieved successful aging.
  • After adjusting for potential confounding factors, women who drank 5 grams of alcohol per day (1/3 to 1 drink per day) had a 20% higher chance of good overall health when older compared to non-drinkers.
  • Independent of total alcohol intake, participants who drank alcohol at regular patterns throughout the week (3–4 days and 5–7 days per week), rather than on a single occasion (1–2 days per week), had better odds of successful aging.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Regular, moderate consumption of alcohol at midlife may be related to a modest increase in overall health status among women who survive to older ages.”

9/13/11 20:15 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.