A recent study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, observes the health impact of alcohol consumption at different ages. The authors of the study conclude that, for individuals over the age of 50, health threats may be less severe.
Heavy drinking is associated with a number of serious health concerns. These consist of heart and liver diseases, certain cancers, and nervous system damage. However, it has been thoroughly covered in the current press that drinking in balance might have certain health welfares.
One study found that moderate drinking protected against all-cause death, as well as mortality associated with cardiovascular disease.
Expectedly, these stories have been well-received, but not all scientists agree, and the discussion is ongoing. A recent study led by the researchers of the Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts, adds further to it.
A fresh approach
The scientists debate that the mode that former studies measured alcohol’s influence on health might be flawed. Precisely, they note that these studies are usually observational and recruit participants over the age of 50.
According to the authors, this is problematic as it excludes people who might have died due to alcohol before the age of 50. As they understatedly point out, that the deceased cannot be registered in cohort studies. The concerns about this intrinsic selection bias in a paper which was published in the journal Addiction in 2017.
Researchers found that those who are drinkers at age 50 are ‘survivors’ of their alcohol consumption who initially might have been healthier or have had safer patterns of drinking.
According to them, nearly 40% of deaths due to alcohol intake occur before the age of 50. It shows that the majority of research into the possible alcohol risks do not take these deaths into a story and could undervalue the real risks.
The authors dipped into statistics from the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact Application to reinvestigate. This data is maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to which, this application provides national and state approximations of alcohol-related health effects, comprising deaths and years of likely life lost.
Why does age matter?
The investigation presented that an individual’s level of alcohol-related risk was greatly influenced by his age. Overall, 35.8% of alcohol-related deaths occurred in individuals aged 20–49. When looking at deaths which were prevented by alcohol drinking, the researchers found only 4.5% in this age group.
When they observed individuals aged 65 or over, it was a dissimilar story: Though a similar 35% of alcohol-related deaths occurred in this group, the researchers found 80% of the deaths prevented by alcohol in this demographic.
The researchers also saw this definite difference between age groups when they looked at the potential years lost to alcohol. They found that 58.4% of the years lost occurred in those aged 20–49. But, this age group only accounted for 14.5% of the years of life saved by drinking.
On the other hand, the over-65 group accounted for 15% of the overall years of life lost, but 50% of the years of life saved.
The authors of the study conclude that younger people are more possible to die from alcohol consumption than they are to die from a lack of drinking. But older people are more likely to experience the benefits of light or moderate drinking.
Although the assumptions are not fiery, they bring us a more understanding of alcohol’s impact on health. Moderate drinking may benefit individuals of a certain age group, but more importantly, heavy drinking is harmful to everyone.