I am studying net social costs of alcohol consumption with PhD student Cecile McKeown. Cecile is an expert in alcohol and drugs research and has long warned me that the claimed net health benefits from drinking booze (as articulated in Australian Health and Welfare reports) are questionable.
The National Drug Research Institute has issued a press release confirming this. The NDRI analysed 54 research studies linking how much people drank with risk of premature death from all causes including heart disease.
It claims the studies made a consistent and serious error of including as 'abstainers' people who had cut down or quit drinking due to declining health, frailty, medication use or disability. The few studies without this error showed no evidence of health benefits.
This does not disprove that light drinking is good for health but the extent of benefits may be exaggerated. The team identified only 7 studies that properly compared light drinkers with long-term abstainers. The results showed no reduction in risk of death among light drinkers compared with abstainers. The other 47 studies showed significantly lower risk of death among light drinkers compared with a group of 'abstainers' that included people who had recently cut down or quit drinking.
The report is in the April issue of Addiction Research and Theory. The article itself is unavailable online.