People who take their daily quota of alcohol can now feel pleased as a new study suggests that they could be at a lower mortality risk than both abstainers and heavy drinkers.

The research team led by Charles J. Holahan, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Texas, collected data from 1,820 adults aged between 55 and 65 after dividing them into four groups based on their drinking habits.

They were classified as light, moderate and heavy drinkers and abstainers after which the team did a 20-year follow-up analysis from the study baseline. The volunteers were asked questions about daily alcohol consumption, problem drinking etc.

"Controlling only for age and gender, mortality was highest among abstainers and heavy drinkers and lowest in moderate drinkers," Holahan said in a press statement. Though alcohol misuse has been linked to many medical conditions, epidemiological evidence suggests that moderate alcohol use is related to a reduced total mortality, he says.

The study, published in the online edition of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, took into account existing drinking problems, health problems and socio-demographic and behavioral factors.

It was found that moderate drinkers showed a substantially reduced mortality benefit compared to abstainers. And after adjusting for the other factors it was seen that people who did not drink and those who drank heavily had higher mortality risks of 49 and 47 percent respectively, compared to moderate drinkers.

The researchers pointed out that health benefits of moderate drinking could get complicated due to the fact that several health risks are associated with not drinking in later life.

"Our findings demonstrate that abstainers were significantly more likely to have had prior drinking problems, to be obese, and to smoke cigarettes than moderate drinkers and scored significantly higher than moderate drinkers on health problems, depressive symptoms and avoidance coping," Holahan says.

The researchers caution that health benefits are only linked to moderate drinking, which, according to U.S. Federal guidelines means no more than two drinks a day for men and one a day for women.