This claim has all the hallmarks of a made up story (too good to be true, against common wisdom, etc.), but is being spread around social media and appears on TIme, who sources it to a scientific paper.

But even after controlling for nearly all imaginable variables — socioeconomic status, level of physical activity, number of close friends, quality of social support and so on — the researchers (a six-member team led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin) found that over a 20-year period, mortality rates were highest for those who were not current drinkers, regardless of whether they used to be alcoholics, second highest for heavy drinkers and lowest for moderate drinkers.


Is this study reliable? Can we say, scientifically, that heavy drinking on average predicts longer life or is the study being misinterpreted for sentationalism? Or is it simply an unreliable study?


Per Kenneth Anderson MA, "Heavy drinkers outlive abstainers because heavy drinking is defined wrongly by the definitions of heavy drinking used in Charles J. Holahan et al. study in 2010 which were far more liberal definitions of moderation and heavy drinking since the cut off level between moderate and heavy drinking in the Holahan study was 3 times greater than the U.S. government definition of the cut off level for women, and one and a half times greater than that for men." Also another study by Ulrich John et.al. in 2013 found that in DSM IV alcoholics "annualized death rates were 4.6-fold higher for women and 1.9-fold higher for men compared to the age- and sex-specific general population" which meant people who met the DSM IV criteria for Alcohol Dependence had lifespans an average of 20 years shorter than those who did not. Alcoholism treatment also had no apparent protective effect in preventing premature death. Per Richard G. Rogers et.al.'s study in 2013 "nondrinkers include several different groups that have unique mortality risks."

Per UNC, "the risk for coronary heart disease even for heavy drinkers remains below the baseline; but risk of death from other causes goes up. The risk of death from liver disease skyrockets off the chart after only a couple of drinks a day."

Per G. Testino et.al. in 2014, "it is ethically inconceivable not to condemn the consumption of a carcinogenic substance and even moderate alcohol drinking is harmful since alcohol was found to cause more harm than good per points mentioned below."

  1. Alcohol consumption is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), ethanol in alcoholic beverages is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) and acetaldehyde associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages, is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) per the International Agency for cancer Research (IARC – WHO). Alcohol consumption (and not abuse) is associated with increased risks of the following cancer types: oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, upper aerodigestive tract, colorectum, liver and female breast

  2. In Australia, the National Heart Foundation explicitly advises against the consumption of red wine and other types of alcoholic drinks for the prevention or treatment of heart diseases.

  3. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) affirmed that from both the public health and clinical viewpoints, there is no merit in promoting alcohol consumption as a preventive strategy.

  4. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated a greater reduction in death from ischaemic heart disease could be obtained by being physically active and eating a healthier diet than by drinking a low dose of alcohol.

  5. It is mandatory to remind that alcoholic beverages consumption (without abuse) favours the development of about 60 different diseases, and that one unit of alcohol a day (about 12 grams of ethanol) significantly increases the risk of hypertension and dysrhythmias.


I have just posted on my personal blog a critique on this subject, with the title "Do heavy drinkers really outlive non-drinkers?".

All those who have performed research in this area appear to have erred in designing the experiment.

As such, the findings appear to be incomplete, in that the comparison has been made between drinkers (of alcoholic beverages) and NOT just non-drinkers, but (probably) non-alcohol drinking REDUCED WATER CONSUMERS.

We know well that adequate water consumption (e.g., about 2 L of plain water) is a must for proper health management.

So, by right, a proper experimental design must have included water drinkers, so that the title would end up being "Comparative study of age-span between moderate alcohol consumers and moderate water consumers".

That is, if the drinkers consumed 2 L of beer daily, then, their lifespan should be compared with those who consumed 2 L of plain water daily.

Only then, the results would make sense. Whereas, in nearly all the studies in this area, the experimental designers appear to have conveniently omitted the inclusion of water consumers.

For sure, abstaining from liquid consumption would impede body physiology. When this happens, naturally, beer being a liquid, would certainly help to a good extent in the upkeep of the body's functions - YET, THAT WOULD CERTAINLY BE MUCH LESSER, COMPARED TO THOSE WHO CONSUME JUST PLAIN WATER.

(if the death rate has reduced to about 40% in the drinkers' group, then, the water consumers' rate could have gone down to, perhaps, even 5% or so).

I would therefore, prefer to dismiss the findings reported in favour of drinkers as faulty information, and this should be cleared by W.H.O. if necessary.

I have discussed this well in my blog which I have just posted (on 26 August 2014). Thanks for reading this.

  • 2
    (-1) This does not include any sources other than your own original research. Furthermore I seriously doubt that the study concluded that heavy drinkers don't drink water/non-alcoholic drinks at all as you suggest. – drat Aug 26 '14 at 6:36
  • 2
    You cite (your own) blog, but that blog itself doesn't cite any sources, and is not peer reviewed, so it is close to worthless as a source. You also need to provide references to the claims you make here: that the comparison ws to reducedwater consumers, that about 2 L of plain water is required (that's false, that beer is somewhat effective (but not as effective as water), etc. – Oddthinking Aug 26 '14 at 6:52
  • This study seems designed well enough to answer the question it addresses. So what if it doesn't answer the question you want it to address? There are different types of studies that are designed for different things. This one was an observational epidemiological study, not designed to assess causation or rule out the effect you propose. That doesn't make it invalid. – user5582 Aug 26 '14 at 11:44

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