Alcohol use: Weighing risks and benefits

And we may not give it a second thought because we’ve heard over and over again that it’s fine to drink in moderation. Drinking alcohol while pregnant puts the baby at risk for lifelong physical, educational, behavioral and emotional problems. Visit Alcohol and Your Health to learn why pregnant women should not drink alcohol. It’s healthier to drink a small drink moderately amount daily than to binge (5 or more drinks for men, 4 or more for women) on weekends or special occasions. They tend to be wealthier, are more likely to exercise and to eat a healthy diet, and are less likely to be overweight. As a result of this research, occasional alcohol consumption was often considered to be compatible with a healthy lifestyle.

what is considered moderate drinking

Alternately, we can try and control for all of the external factors that are influencing the relationship between health and alcohol, and see whether moderate drinkers are still healthier. The review found that the risks of dying prematurely increase significantly for women once they drink 25 grams of alcohol a day, which is less than two standard cocktails containing 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, two 12-ounce beers or two 5-ounce glasses of wine. The risks to men increase significantly at 45 grams of alcohol a day, or just over three drinks.

Is moderate drinking good or bad for you?

The researchers have invested much effort in maintaining some degree of comparability across surveys, despite changing definitions and conceptualizations of alcohol-use disorders (Grant 1994). The ranges of alcohol content for beer, wine, and distilled spirits vary somewhat from State to State. Significant variation also exists in the alcohol content of beverages within each of these categories. The typical alcohol content of beer is roughly 4.5 percent (by volume), but the alcohol content of light beers may be less than 3 percent, and certain craft-brewed beers or malt liquors may have an alcohol content of up to 9 percent or higher.

Diary methods produce higher estimates than do either QF or short-term recall methods. For example, in the previously mentioned study using an automated interactive telephone reporting system (Searles et al. 1995), 50 volunteers reported their daily alcohol intake for 112 consecutive days. Other data collected by traditional means immediately after study completion demonstrated that drinkers—particularly heavier drinkers—retrospectively underreported their alcohol consumption. Questionnaires using the graduated frequency approach consistently produce higher estimates of volume of alcohol consumption than do QF measures, particularly among heavier drinkers. One of the reasons underlying higher estimates with graduated frequency measures is that such measures generally involve more questions than do simple QF measures, particularly for heavier drinkers. Survey researchers have discovered that more questions (and consequently more answers) may lead to higher consumption estimates, which are generally considered to be more accurate.

Survey Methodology

The best way to manage your alcohol intake is to follow your daily or weekly drinking limit. Keep track of how many standard drinks you have per week and make sure you know how much alcohol is in every drink you consume. Some heavy drinkers who’ve experienced problems from their drinking can learn how to moderate their drinking.

Basically, it’s impossible to know from much of this research if moderate drinking causes people to be healthy, or if it’s just that the people who drink moderately in our society are rich and well-off, and that’s what is making us think that moderate drinking is good. The issue is pretty obvious when you look at the people who drink moderately in all of these studies. They tend to be wealthier, more educated, smoke less, live in nicer areas, are less likely to have been in prison, less likely to be overweight, and in general are better off than both people who drink a lot and those who say that they never drink. Never drinkers are also different in a lot of ways, mostly bad, which makes sense if you think about the why people might choose to abstain from drinking – for example, illness, poverty, and previous alcoholism. The problem is that moderate drinking isn’t an isolated behaviour. You can’t easily separate moderate drinking from the people who drink moderately, which means that you can’t easily identify whether it’s actually the alcohol that’s improving people’s health or something more complex.

A Study on Drinking and Health Risks

There are certain cases in which it is recommended that American adults avoid alcohol completely. It is strictly advised that under no circumstances should individuals under the legal drinking age of 21 years old consume alcohol in any amount. Excessive alcohol consumption is a component cause of more than 200 disease and injury conditions, including alcohol use disorder, liver cirrhosis, cancer, and physical injury. But Brewer says it’s important to understand that the excessive drinkers who are not alcohol dependent are unlikely to need addiction treatment. They may also respond to interventions such as increased alcohol taxes to drink less. Now, Brewer points out that most excessive drinkers follow much more of a binge-like pattern, where they’re drinking four or more drinks per occasion.

Most U.S. adults drink at some point in their lifetime, according to survey data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). In any given year, two-thirds of adults drink at some point, and in a typical month, more than half of people consume alcohol. Drink for the taste, drink to socialise, but don’t drink because you think it’s going to cure your depression or heal your heart. There are people who abstain, but by and large we love to drink alcohol – it’s part of our social culture, part of our collective identity, and so pervasive that it can be hard to escape from even if you try. As anyone who’s attempted a Dry July can attest, booze is something that we are all connected to in myriads of ways. Current U.S. dietary guidelines are nowhere near as strict, recommending men limit themselves to two drinks or less a day and women to one or less.

Moderate Drinking Has No Health Benefits, Analysis of Decades of Research Finds

In addition, people who cut back on alcohol consumption in middle age had a higher dementia risk than adults who consistently consumed moderate amounts of alcohol. The risk of developing cancer increases substantially the more alcohol is consumed. This drinking pattern is responsible for the majority of alcohol-attributable breast cancers in women, with
the highest burden observed in countries of the European Union (EU). In the EU, cancer is the leading cause of death – with a steadily increasing incidence rate – and the majority of all alcohol-attributable deaths are due to different
types of cancers. However, alcoholic beverages differ substantially in their alcohol content. Accordingly, a drink should be defined in terms of alcohol content, so that a drink of beer contains approximately the same amount of alcohol as a drink of wine or spirits.

In the past, most alcohol surveys were conducted via face-to-face interviews and therefore were labor intensive and expensive. The rapid progress in computer technology, however, has led to the development and use of computer-assisted telephone interview systems. Because they are considerably less costly than face-to-face interviews, telephone surveys are rapidly gaining popularity among survey researchers. Scientists are divided as to whether the assessment mode influences reported alcohol consumption. Recent studies have found no significant differences between in-person and telephone interviews on most measures of drinking behavior (Greenfield et al. 1997; Rehm 1998).