Journal article

Alcohol consumption at midlife and successful ageing in women: A prospective cohort analysis in the nurses' health study

Health Women Alcohol Ageing Australia

Alcohol consumed in small, daily amounts may actually lead to better health. According to a nationally representative survey in 2008, 71.7% of men and 58.3% of women reported consuming alcohol in the past year. High levels of alcohol clearly have detrimental effects on many aspects of human health, but strong, consistent evidence suggests that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce risk of specific diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cognitive decline, in comparison with no alcohol consumption or heavy consumption. Similarly, a typical U- or J-shaped association between alcohol consumption and mortality was observed in most observational studies among various populations, and the overall consistency of results across these studies was remarkable. However, whether moderate alcohol consumption is associated with overall health among ageing populations remains to be adequately addressed. Limited, existing evidence to date primarily focused on the effects of higher drinking levels (more than 2 to 3 drinks/day)on the overall health, and highly controversial results were documented in that both null and significant inverse or positive associations were found in these studies. In addition, probably because alcohol was not the primary exposure of interest in these studies, methodological issues, such as reverse causation bias by sick quitters, which are specific to alcohol analysis, received little attention in these studies. Given the rapid increase in the ageing demographic in many countries, it is critical to understand factors that contribute to overall health and well-being at older ages. In addition, since chronic conditions in ageing often develop over many years, it is most likely that factors in earlier life are key to health in later life, as evidenced by studies with extraordinarily long follow-up that linked early life exposures on disease outcomes developed many years later. We, therefore, examined midlife alcohol consumption in relation to successful ageing, a health outcome summarizing survival, chronic diseases, mental health, and physical and cognitive function, in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS). Authors: Qi Sun, Mary K. Townsend, Olivia I. Okereke, Eric B. Rimm, Frank B. Hu, Meir J. Stampfer, Francine Grodstein

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