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Research Summary

Alcohol Intake, Survival, and Quality of Life

To determine the relationship between midlife alcohol consumption and later quality of life and mortality, researchers in Finland collected clinical and questionnaire data from 1808 healthy male executives (aged 40–55 years at baseline) and reassessed them at various intervals over 29 years.

  • A significantly greater proportion of heavy drinkers (consumed >349 g of alcohol per week) than moderate drinkers (consumed 1–349 g per week) or nondrinkers died (38%, 25%, and 27%, respectively).
  • In analyses adjusted for age, smoking, cholesterol, and glucose levels, heavy drinkers (compared with moderate drinkers) had a borderline significant increased risk of death from all causes (hazard ratio [HR] 1.3) and a significantly greater risk of noncardiovascular, noncancer, and nonviolent deaths (HR 2.8).
  • Alcohol consumption was not significantly associated with quality of life (determined by the RAND 36, a validated survey measure) at follow-up among survivors. However, it was worse among heavy drinkers in adjusted analyses that accounted for deaths during follow-up.
  • Nondrinkers did not differ significantly from moderate drinkers on mortality or quality of life.

Comments:

While the poorer outcomes experienced by heavy drinkers are not surprising, the lack of differences between nondrinkers and moderate drinkers in this population of high socioeconomic status is notable. Unfortunately, this study has several substantial limitations, including not adequately adjusting for potential confounders and defining moderate drinking broadly (e.g., included amounts often considered as heavy drinking). Nonetheless, future studies investigating how social factors, like socioeconomic status, may influence drinking outcomes should be encouraged.

R. Curtis Ellison, MD

Reference:

Strandberg AY, Strandberg TE, Salomaa VV, et al. Alcohol consumption, 29-y total mortality, and quality of life in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(5):1366–1371.


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