Drinking Death Away

By Valentina Palladino
How Drinkers May Outlive Nondrinkers.

How many shots of vodka are you doing tonight? Five? Six? Six sounds good – you don’t want to get too crazy. Six is just enough to get tipsy, and it’s definitely better (and more fun) than not drinking at all – in more ways than one. New research shows heavy drinkers outlive nondrinkers.

This has to be too good to be true.

The claim that alcohol is beneficial for one’s health has generated doubt and speculation for years. However, new evidence from the paper “Late-Life Alcohol Consumptions and 20-Year Mortality,” in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that nondrinkers are at a higher risk of death than heavy drinkers. Don’t get too shot-happy yet. There is a scale of mortality among the categories of drinkers. Moderate drinkers, those who have one to three drinks per day, live longest, followed by heavy drinkers. Nondrinkers bring up the rear with the highest death rates.

Alcohol’s ability to increase sociability may be one reason it helps people live longer. Alcohol plays an important role in our culture’s social interactions by making it easier for people to communicate with others and join the party. Those who always abstain from drinking alcohol are, in a sense, choosing to isolate themselves from others.

Take, for example, a game of beer pong at a party. Those who join in are engaging in a game and interacting with others, with the game’s focus surrounding alcohol. Compare this to a night spent in your room watching a movie alone, and it’s easy to see the difference in bonding time with friends, both old and new. Alcohol helps build relationships by providing the ease of sociability, especially in college. Certain college relationships are completely based on, and maintained by, alcohol. Whether that’s a good thing is up for debate. “Some friends solely see each other at parties and drinking is the only interest they share,” says Lauren Stefaniak, a sophomore magazine journalism and philosophy dual major at Syracuse University. “Drinking enhances the ease with which one can start up a conversation and establish that one-serve we’re-only-talking-because-we’re-drunk friendship.”

Although drinking heavily is better than never drinking, studies show that frequent, uncontrollable alcohol consumption causes more harm than good. Charles Holahan, one of the authors of the study and a psychology professor at the University of Texas, wrote in the journal, Alcoholism, that, “heavy episodic drinking, even when average consumption remains moderate, is associated with increased cardiovascular risk.” Not only can excessive alcohol intake harm your memory, but it can also lead to seemingly small lapses in judgment that can have big consequences. And don’t forget the possibility of becoming alcohol dependent. Once you need to be drunk in order to be social, there’s a problem.

There is not one, clear answer as to why nondrinkers tend to live shorter lives. Other scientific evidence calls upon the health benefits of alcohol when consumed in moderation. Red wine, in particular, is very heart-healthy and also contains reservatrol, an antimicrobial substance that has been proven to reduce the risk of cancer. Isn’t it nice to know that alcohol can help you make friends while protecting your heart at the same time?

Moral of the story is this, kids: learn to balance your beers and level your liquor consumption and you could extend your life. So next time you feel like having an extra glass of wine, don’t feel too guilty. Cheers!

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