Research published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found those who did not consume any alcohol appeared to have a higher mortality rate, regardless of whether they were former heavy drinkers or not, than those who drank heavily.
Instead, ‘moderate’ drinking, defined as one to three drinks per day, was associated with the lowest mortality rate.
A team led by Charles Holahan, a psychologist at the University of Texas followed 1,824 participants over two decades. They conceded the gender ratio of participants was disproportionate as sixty-three per cent of participants were male. All of the individuals were aged between 55 and 65.
Sixty-nine per cent of the participants who abstained from drinking alcohol died during the 20 year observation period, in comparison to 60 per cent of the heavy drinkers. Only 41 per cent of moderate drinkers died within this time frame.
These results came even after the team controlled variables such as socio-demographic factors, health and social-behavioural factors.
The authors noted: "A model controlling for former problem drinking status, existing health problems, and key sociodemographic and social-behavioral factors, as well as for age and gender, substantially reduced the mortality effect for abstainers compared to moderate drinkers.
"However, even after adjusting for all covariates, abstainers and heavy drinkers continued to show increased mortality risks of 51 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively, compared to moderate drinkers".
They concluded: “Even after taking account of traditional and non-traditional covariates, moderate alcohol consumption continued to show a beneficial effect in predicting mortality risk”.