Do Studies Touting Benefits Of Alcohol Consumption Tell The Whole Story?

By Beth Leipholtz 03/04/19

For young and middle-age adults, alcohol consumption may actually be more harmful than previously thought.  

woman drinking alcohol after reading study about the benefits

Studies that point to alcohol consumption as beneficial may only be telling part of the story, as they tend to focus on those aged 50 and older, and disregard alcohol-related deaths before that age, according to new research.

For young and middle-age adults, alcohol consumption may actually be more harmful than previously thought.  

Researchers in a recent study, according to Live Science, looked at information from a database which estimates the U.S.'s approximate number of deaths and years of life lost due to alcohol intake.

Included in the database were 54 medical conditions related both directly and indirectly to alcohol use, like car crashes involving alcohol and liver-related diseases. Some of the conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, linked alcohol with a reduced risk of the condition. 

In studying the data, researchers led by Timothy Naimi of Boston Medical Center's Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit determined that in the four years from 2006 to 2010, around 36% of alcohol-related deaths were in those ages 20 to 49, and 35% were in those older than 65.

Additionally, Live Science reports, researchers noted that about 60% of the years of life lost were in those ages 20 to 49, and only 15% were in those ages 65 and older. 

The authors note that "deceased persons cannot be enrolled in cohort studies," and add that, "Those who are established drinkers at age 50 are 'survivors' of their alcohol consumption who [initially] might have been healthier or have had safer drinking patterns" when compared to others who drank. 

In order to determine any benefits of alcohol consumption, researchers took note of fatalities “estimated to be ‘prevented’ by alcohol consumption, as well as years of life ‘saved by alcohol," according to Live Science.

They found that those ages 20 to 49 accounted for about 4.5% of deaths supposedly prevented by alcohol, in comparison to 80% in those ages 65 and above.

In conclusion, the authors note that those in the younger age ranges "are more likely to die from alcohol consumption than they are to die from a lack of drinking.” They add that those in older age brackets are more likely to reap benefits from drinking, and are likely the ones highlighted in studies that point to benefits of alcohol consumption. 

"This study adds to the literature questioning protective effects for alcohol on all-cause mortality," the authors add. 

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.