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Research Summary

Higher Quality of Life Seen among Regular Moderate Drinkers than among Abstainers in Canada

Data from a nationally representative sample of 5404 community-dwelling Canadians aged ≥50 years were used to estimate the effects of alcohol drinking patterns* on indices of health-related quality of life (HRQL) at baseline and at 6-year follow-up. Health-related quality of life was assessed using the Health Utilities Index Mark 3. Results were as follows:

  • Most participants showed stable alcohol-consumption patterns over 6 years.
  • Regular moderate drinkers had the highest indices of HRQL at baseline. Subsequent changes in scores were similar in all groups except those reporting decreased alcohol consumption, who reported decreased HRQL.
*Consumption categories included lifelong abstainers, former drinkers (no alcoholic beverages in the past 12 months), infrequent drinkers (<1 drink per week), moderate drinkers (1–14 drinks per week with no more than 3 in a day for women or 4 in a day for men), and heavy drinkers (>14 drinks per week or >3 in a day for women or >4 in a day for men). One standard drink = 13.6 g ethanol in this study.


In this study, persistent moderate drinkers had higher initial levels of HRQL than abstainers and those in other consumption groups. One statistical and epidemiologic concern is that the reasons some people decreased or stopped drinking are not known. Many may have decreased their intake due to serious disease, which would also result in poorer HRQL. Further, baseline HQRL measures in this study were obtained when subjects were aged ≥50 years. Environmental effects on HRQL begin early in life, and if one adjusts for the midlife value, as was done and referred to as “baseline” in the present study, you may end up disregarding much of the effect of subsequent alcohol intake, both beneficial and harmful. Thus, the effects of continued or decreasing alcohol consumption on HRQL as one ages remain unclear. R. Curtis Ellison, MD


Kaplan MS, Huguet N, Feeny D, et al. Alcohol use patterns and trajectories of health-related quality of life in middle-aged and older adults: a 14-year population-based study. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2012;73(4):581–590.