Moderate Midlife Drinking Leads to Healthier Old Age for Women

New research has found that women who consume alcohol moderately in middle age are more likely to be in good physical and mental health in old age.

Beer Good for Womens Health
Photo by Oskar Lewis

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that the study is limited to women who were in good shape in middle age. Also, it doesn’t necessarily prove that moderate drinking leads to better health than not drinking at all, considering an infinite number of other factors that could cause differences.

Dr. Qi Sun of the Harvard School of Public Health who authored the study sums it up by saying, “if you are an otherwise healthy person, and you’re a long-term light-to-moderate drinker, this may have some benefits.”

Scientists found evidence linking moderate drinking to health benefits in terms of heart disease, stroke and brain function. They’re thinking the benefits may be a result of the alcohol reducing inflammation in the body.

Published in the September issue of PLoS Medicine, the study examined the medical records of almost 14,000 nurses who were middle-aged in the 1980’s and lived to be at least 70. The health of the women was updated through the decades and excluded those with possible alcohol problems or heavy drinking.

Focusing on 11% of the women (just under 1500 of them) who had aged successfully (without chronic diseases like diabetes or physical or mental limitations), the researchers compared the moderate drinkers to the other women and tried to determine whether they were any healthier.

Of those who had no major health problems in old age, only 22% were non-drinkers. 62% consumed about one drink a day, about 10% drank two drinks daily and 3% had more than two drinks a day.

When all was said and done, the healthiest women in old age had been the drinkers in midlife. Sun estimated that moderate drinkers were approximately 20% more likely to be healthy later in life.

Routinely drinking light to moderate amounts of alcohol appeared to have more benefits than only drinking occasionally. Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be much research on midlife drinking in men.

If I had to classify my drinking habits, I’d say I’m pretty “moderate” – so I’ll just keep up the good work.


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