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Research Summary

Moderate Drinking Improves Quality and Length of Life in Elderly Women

This study examined whether alcohol intake affects mortality risk or health-related quality of life in older women. Researchers evaluated survey data, collected over 6 years, from 11,878 Australian women aged 70 to 75 years at baseline. Analyses were adjusted for potential confounders (e.g., comorbidity, smoking).

Women who did not consume alcohol or drank only rarely/less than every week were more likely than women who drank 1–2 drinks per day on 3–6 days per week to

  • die (hazard ratio 1.9 for nondrinkers; 1.6 for rare drinkers);

  • have lower health-related quality of life (measured among survivors by the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form Survey).

Comments:

The results of this relatively large, prospective cohort study of elderly women suggest that moderate alcohol consumption not only reduces the risk of mortality, but also may improve health-related quality of life. The mechanisms to explain these outcomes are not clear. However, the authors suggest that in addition to the positive effects of ethanol, the social benefits of drinking and improved appetite that possibly accompanies moderate alcohol use may explain the longer and healthier lives of older female drinkers in this study.

R. Curtis Ellison, MD

Reference:

Byles J, Young A, Furuya H, et al. A drink to healthy aging: the association between older women’s use of alcohol and their health-related quality of life. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006;54(9):1341–1347.


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