If you are over 40 and have no underlying health conditions a small glass of red wine, or a can or bottle of beer, or a shot of whiskey or other spirits may help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes, according to a new analysis published in The Lancet.
However, the study showed that young people may face higher health risks from alcohol consumption than older adults.
In particular, for males aged 15-39 drinking alcohol does not provide any health benefits. They constitute the largest segment of the population drinking unsafe amounts of alcohol and are at health risk, with 60 per cent of alcohol-related injuries occurring among people in this age group, including motor vehicle accidents, suicides, and homicides.
“Our message is simple: young people should not drink, but older people may benefit from drinking small amounts. While it may not be realistic to think young adults will abstain from drinking, we do think it’s important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health,” said Dr Emmanuela Gakidou, Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.
For the study, the team looked at the risk of alcohol consumption on 22 health outcomes, including injuries, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers using 2020 Global Burden of Disease data for males and females aged 15-95 years and older between 1990 and 2020, in 204 countries and territories.
In general, for individuals aged 40-64 years, safe alcohol consumption levels ranged from about half a standard drink per day (0.527 drinks for males and 0.562 standard drinks per day for females) to almost two standard drinks (1.69 standard drinks per day for males and 1.82 for females).
For individuals over 65 years, the risks of health loss from alcohol consumption were reached after consuming a little more than three standard drinks per day (3.19 drinks for males and 3.51 for females).
On the other hand, the recommended amount of alcohol for people aged 15-39 before risking health loss was 0.136 standard drinks per day (a little more than one-tenth of a standard drink).
That amount was slightly higher for females aged 15-39 years at 0.273 drinks (about a quarter of a standard drink per day).
The findings also suggest that global alcohol consumption recommendations should be based on age and location.
One standard drink per day was found to be safe among individuals aged 55-59 in north Africa and the Middle East and about half a standard drink per day in central sub-Saharan Africa.
Overall, the recommended alcohol intake for adults remained low at between 0-1.87 standard drinks per day, regardless of geography, age, sex, or year, the researchers said.