Abstaining From Alcohol Can Shorten Your Life


Apparently, abstaining from alcohol may not be so good for you after all:

newly released study shows that regular drinkers are less likely to die prematurely than people who have never indulged in alcohol. You read that right: Time reports that abstaining from alcohol altogether can lead to a shorter life than consistent, moderate drinking.

Surprised? The tightly controlled study, which looked at individuals between ages 55 and 65, spanned a 20-year period and accounted for variables ranging from socioeconomic status to level of physical activity. Led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin, it found that mortality rates were highest for those who had never had a sip, lower for heavy drinkers, and lowest for moderate drinkers who enjoyed one to three drinks per day.

Of the 1,824 study participants, only 41 percent of the moderate drinkers died prematurely compared to a whopping 69 percent of the nondrinkers. Meanwhile, the heavy drinkers fared better than those who abstained, with a 60 percent mortality rate. Despite the increased risks for cirrhosis and several types of cancer, not to mention dependency, accidents, and poor judgment associated with heavy drinking, those who imbibe are less likely to die than people who stay dry.

It’s science! Are you going to argue with science?


FILED UNDER: Health, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Abdul says:

    The idea, I think, is that those who drink have better social bonds?

  2. ernieyeball says:

    …those who imbibe are less likely to die than people who stay dry.

    Well. Last I heard we are all going to die…
    Let’s see now, I was drunk every day for the better part of 30 years…I quit stone cold sober about 15 years ago and I’ll be 66 in 8 days.
    You do the math. Do I get some sort of credit for 30 years of swilling the hootch or have the last 15 years cut into any Methuselah syndrome that might be the Drinkers Dance?

  3. Mikey says:

    In a possibly related development, or maybe not, it has been found that associates of Kim Jong Un tend to die prematurely when he drinks.

  4. Tony W says:

    @ernieyeball: Sounds like you’ve done your time, friend. And Happy Birthday in advance!

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    To be honest I suspect that drinking’non-drinking are actually proxies for a list of behaviors and genetic backgrounds. In other words, it may be who’s a moderate drinker, an abstainer, etc. than the amount consumed per se.

  6. Liberal Capitalist says:


    Let’s see now, I was drunk every day for the better part of 30 years

    Ditto. 25 years sober, and now have outlived my dad’s years.

    Every time I read one of these reports, or the “new” cure… I just laugh, and keep on with what works.

    ps: doing the math: a pack of smokes and a six pack x 25 years = $73,000

    So, if that is the case, why do I feel so much richer?

    Much richer, less bitter.

    Life is good.

    (…although that $73K may explain the Porsche & Audi in the driveway. 🙂

  7. michael reynolds says:

    I want to live! Come on, 5 PM, Daddy needs his life-saving therapy.

  8. ernieyeball says:

    @Tony W: Thanks Mr. T!
    I’ll spend most of the day napping interrupted by the Warriors at Hawks. May have to watch the Cotton Bowl since my sister works for Missouri University.
    @Liberal Capitalist: My dad made it to 85 when he died in 2001. Didn’t pick up my habits from him or my mom as neither one of them drank or smoked.
    If I live another 2 decades it will likely be with my ass and my brain in a sling considering all the pharmaceuticals I ingested in my youth.

  9. Alcohol isn't really healthy says:

    Before anyone gets carried away with the misleading title, read the paper first:

    “The investigators found a U-shaped relationship between baseline alcohol consumption and mortality, with mortality highest among abstainers and individuals consuming 3 or more drinks a day and lowest in moderate drinkers. However, they did not take account of former problem drinking. Thus, a persistent controversy pertaining to the putative salutary health effects of moderate drinking involves a concern that current abstainers may include past heavy or problem drinkers with poor health habits and high prevalence rates of many medical illnessess…”

  10. C. Clavin says:

    I am always dubious of these sorts of outcomes…too clear-cut for the real world.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    Bring on the Laphraoig!