There is good news and bad from a new study out of Boston Medical Center. The good news is that the health benefits of drinking alcohol may be underestimated in older adults. The bad news is that those same benefits may be overestimated for people under fifty.
This is because of less than ideal parameters of studies in the past. Research has primarily focused on individuals over the age of fifty, according to the study. Almost 36 percent of deaths that are caused by alcohol happened in people under the age of 49. Only 4.5 percent of fatalities in the same group were prevented with alcohol consumption. Meanwhile, in people over the age of 65, 80 percent of the deaths prevented by alcohol consumption occurred.
The study suggested that the people in the study who showed positive results with drinking were, “established drinkers at age 50 are ‘survivors’ of their alcohol consumption who (initially) might have been healthier or have had safer drinking patterns.”
The find implies that people for whom alcohol is more detrimental than positive died prior to being involved in any studies. This skews the results and may underplay the risks associated with drinking — even when not drinking to excess. After all, the researchers pointed out, “Deceased persons cannot be enrolled in cohort studies.”
It further suggests that older people are the demographic most likely to see the health benefits of moderate drinking. Drinking aids health related to heart disease, dementia, stroke and osteoporosis — problems that mainly impacted people over the age of 50. The team found that alcohol prevents about 1,500 deaths a year.
According to the researchers, people under 50 are, “are more likely to die from alcohol consumption than they are to die from a lack of drinking… This study adds to the literature questioning protective effects for alcohol on all-cause mortality.”
A conclusion from the research might be that moderate drinking may be beneficial to older people, but heavy drinking is harmful to everyone.