Multiple studies have shown that the likelihood of dying for people who drink increases as they consume more alcohol. Those same studies have shown that a person's mortality risk also increases at the other end of the spectrum — among people who choose not to drink at all — though the risk is still much less than for heavy drinkers.
Some researchers have hypothesized that the increased mortality among nondrinkers could be related to the fact that light alcohol consumption — drinking, on average, less than one drink a day — might actually protect people from disease and reduce their stress levels.
But researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, working with colleagues at the University of Colorado Denver, decided to examine whether characteristics of different subgroups of nondrinkers could explain the increased mortality risk.
"Among nondrinkers, people have all sorts of background reasons for why they don't drink," said sociology Professor Richard Rogers, director of CU-Boulder's Population Program in the Institute of Behavioral Science. "We wanted to tease that out because it's not really informative to just assume that nondrinkers are a unified group."
For the new study, published in last month's issue of the journal Population Research and Policy Review, Rogers and his colleagues relied on data collected in 1988 by the National Health Interview Survey about the drinking habits of more than 41,000 people from across the United States. The researchers also had access to information about which respondents died between taking the survey and 2006.
During the survey, nondrinkers were asked to provide their reasons for not drinking. Possible answers ranged from "don't socialize very much" to "am an alcoholic" to "religious or moral reasons."
The research team divided nondrinkers into three general categories: "abstainers," or people who have never had more than 12 drinks in their lives; "infrequent drinkers," or people who have fewer than 12 drinks a year; and "former drinkers." Each category was further divided using a statistical technique that grouped people together who gave similar clusters of reasons for not drinking.
The team then calculated the mortality risk for each subgroup compared with the mortality risk for light drinkers, and they found that the risks varied markedly.
Abstainers who chose not to drink for a cluster of reasons that included religious or moral motivations, being brought up not to drink, responsibilities to their family, as well as not liking the taste, had similar mortality risks over the follow-up period to light drinkers.
"So this idea that nondrinkers always have higher mortality than light drinkers isn't true," Rogers said. "You can find some groups of nondrinkers who have similar mortality risks to light drinkers."
The other subgroup of abstainers — whose largest reason for not drinking appeared to be a dislike of the taste and to a lesser degree family responsibilities, religious or moral motivations or upbringing — had a 17 percent higher mortality risk over the follow-up period compared with light drinkers.
The scientists also found that infrequent drinkers generally had a slightly higher mortality risk than light drinkers. Former drinkers, however, had the highest mortality risk of all nondrinkers. Former drinkers whose cluster of reasons for not drinking now included being an alcoholic and problems with drinking, for example, had a 38 percent higher mortality risk than light drinkers over the follow-up period.
By comparison, people who drink between one and two drinks per day, on average, have a 9 percent higher mortality rate than light drinkers, while people who drink between two and three drinks per day have a 49 percent higher mortality. People who consume more than three drinks per day had a 58 percent higher mortality risk over the follow-up period compared with light drinkers.
Despite confirming that some subgroups of nondrinkers have a higher mortality rate than light drinkers, it doesn't necessarily follow that those people's mortality rates would fall if they began drinking, Rogers said. For example, people who were problem drinkers in the past might increase their mortality risk further by starting to drink again.
Also, people who don't drink at all, as a group, have lower socioeconomic characteristics than light drinkers, which could be one of the underlying causes for the mortality differences, Rogers said. In that case, starting to drink without changing a person's socioeconomic status also would not likely lower mortality rates.
"I think the idea that drinking could be somewhat beneficial seems like it's overstated," Rogers said. "There may be other factors that lower mortality for light drinkers. It's not just the act of drinking."
Co-authors of the study include Robert Kemp and Elizabeth Lawrence from CU-Boulder and Patrick Krueger and Richard Miech from CU Denver.
Richard Rogers | EurekAlert!
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences