The health effects of alcohol consumption may be underestimated, particularly for younger people. Previous studies that have provided evidence for protective health benefits from drinking were typically focused on individuals who were over the age of 50, which fails to account for people who had died younger than age 50 as a result of alcohol consumption.
The study authors, led by Dr. Timothy Naimi of the Boston Medical Center pointed out that “deceased persons cannot be enrolled in cohort studies. Those who are established drinkers at age 50 are ‘survivors’ of their alcohol consumption who (initially) might have been healthier or have had safer drinking patterns.”
According to the researchers, more than 40 percent of deaths related to alcohol occur before age 50. This suggests that most current studies do not represent the risks of alcohol consumption across the full age spectrum.
For their investigation, Dr. Naimi and his team used the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact software application from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The experts obtained government statistics on the cause of death or preventive health benefits related to alcohol consumption from 2006 to 2010.
The researchers found that age was a major factor in deaths prevented by alcohol consumption. Overall, 35.8 percent of deaths caused by alcohol occurred in people between the ages of 20 and 49, and only 4.5 percent of fatalities in this age group had been prevented by alcohol consumption.
While individuals aged 65 and older saw a similar mortality rate caused by drinking, 80 percent of the deaths that were prevented by alcohol occurred in this group.
The study authors said the findings show that younger people “are more likely to die from alcohol consumption than they are to die from a lack of drinking.” On the other hand, older people are the most likely to reap the health benefits of moderate drinking.
The study is published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol & Drugs.