Every so often, research surfaces that highlights the supposed benefits of drinking alcohol, but a new study suggests these findings are exaggerated; there is no real connection between alcohol and good health; and even “moderate drinking” may be detrimental, especially in elderly individuals.

Although studies have noted a common trend between moderate alcohol consumption and excellent health, according to new research now published in The Journals of Gerontology, this is simply the result of socioeconomic differences. Individuals of higher socioeconomic status tend to drink more, but they also tend to have the resources to better look after their health. In the new study, which was focused specifically on the effects of drinking in older adults, the team found that when they controlled for level of socioeconomic status, any relationship between moderate drinking and health significantly reduced for women and completely vanished for men.

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"In fact, our research suggests that older adults' health doesn't reflect 'how much' they are drinking; it reflects 'who is drinking,'” lead researcher Dr. Andy Towers explained in a statement. Moderate drinkers tend be wealthier with lifestyles that encourage good health, so it looks like there is a relationship between their drinking and their health status.”

Their data is based on information from 29,000 older New Zealanders (with an average age of 65), and revealed that around 45 percent of New Zealand men and less than 25 percent of New Zealand women admitted to drinking daily. The researchers noted in a statement that since the effects of alcohol consumption are more dangerous for older individuals than younger, these results suggest that the older public needs to become more aware of the severity of their seemingly “harmless” daily habits.

Alcohol is a drug, and while we are all aware of its effect on the liver, research has shown just how much of an adverse affect prolonged use has on the entire body. For example, over time, excessive alcohol consumption weakens the heart muscle, which can result in blood flow irregularities. In addition, prolonged alcohol use and abuse can damage the neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to depression, anxiety, memory loss, and even seizures.

“If alcohol provides no health benefits for older adults, then how much is too much for an older adult to drink?" concluded Towers.

Source: Towers A, Phillipp M, Dulin P, Allen J. The “Health Benefits” of Moderate Drinking in Older Adults may be Better Explained by Socioeconomic Status. The Journals of Gerontology. 2017

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