Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: To relate alcohol consumption patterns to mortality in an elderly population. METHODS: We undertook a 23-year prospective study of 12 000 male British doctors aged 48-78 years in 1978, involving 7000 deaths. Questionnaires about drinking and smoking were completed in 1978 and once again in 1989-91. Mortality analyses are standardized for age, follow-up duration, and smoking, and (during the last decade of the study, 1991-2001) subdivide non-drinkers into never-drinkers and ex-drinkers. RESULTS: In this elderly population, with mean alcohol consumption per drinker of 2 to 3 units per day, the causes of death that are already known to be augmentable by alcohol accounted for only 5% of the deaths (1% liver disease, 2% cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, or oesophagus, and 2% external causes of death) and were significantly elevated only among men consuming >2 units/day. Vascular disease and respiratory disease accounted for more than half of all the deaths and were both significantly less common among current than among non-drinkers; hence, overall mortality was also significantly lower (relative risk, RR 0.81, CI 0.76-0.87, P = 0.001). The non-drinkers, however, include the ex-drinkers, some of whom may have stopped recently because of illness, and during the last decade of the study (1991-2001) overall mortality was significantly higher in the few ex-drinkers who had been current drinkers in 1978 than in the never-drinkers or current drinkers. To avoid bias, these 239 ex-drinkers were considered together with the 6271 current drinkers and compared with the 750 men who had been non-drinkers in both questionnaires. Even so, ischaemic heart disease (RR 0.72, CI 0.58-0.88, P = 0.002), respiratory disease (RR 0.69, CI 0.52-0.92, P = 0.01), and all-cause (RR 0.88, CI 0.79-0.98, P = 0.02) mortality were significantly lower than in the non-drinkers. CONCLUSIONS: Although some of the apparently protective effect of alcohol against disease is artefactual, some of it is real.

Original publication

DOI

10.1093/ije/dyh369

Type

Journal article

Journal

Int J Epidemiol

Publication Date

02/2005

Volume

34

Pages

199 - 204

Keywords

Aged, Alcohol Drinking, Cardiovascular Diseases, Cause of Death, Epidemiologic Methods, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasms, Physicians, Respiration Disorders, Temperance, United Kingdom