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Sorry—Moderate Drinking Doesn't Make You Healthier

Though the authors acknowledged that further research should be undertaken, it is possible that moderate drinking has no real impact on one’s mortality.

You aren't the only one who has an ambivalent relationship with booze.

Scientists whose job it is to understand the health benefits (and risks) of alcohol are constantly confronted with occasionally confounding results about it.

One day they find that beer goggles don't really exist and that drinking alcohol facilitates the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, and the next, a study comes out finding that beer goggles are definitely a thing, or that drinking can make you more attractive to others. Drinking in moderation has even been linked to slower aging and general happiness among old people.


READ: Scientists Claim 'Beer Goggles' Aren't Actually a Thing

It's in this sea of conflicting science (and emotions) that a recent study has subjected the myth of alcohol's supposed health benefits to even more scrutiny. According to researchers from the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia, the health benefits of alcohol—even in moderation—may be pretty negligible.

For their study, which was published in Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, the team compiled data from 87 long-term studies encompassing 3,998,626 individuals, 367,103 of whom had died. Respondents from these earlier studies were broken down into groups depending on how much they drank.

What they found was a "J-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption," meaning, in essence, that the more one drinks, the higher the risk of mortality. But the study also found that the group of "low-volume" drinkers might be getting mixed in with abstainers and skewing results in favour of "low-volume" drinkers, meaning that it was very difficult to extract the light drinkers from nondrinkers.

"In summary, our study suggests that a skeptical position is warranted in relation to the evidence that low-volume consumption is associated with net health benefits," the University of Victoria team wrote, adding that, "low-volume drinkers may appear healthy only because the 'abstainers' with whom they are compared are biased toward ill health."

Though the authors acknowledged that further research should be undertaken, it is possible that moderate drinking has no real impact on one's mortality. So, is that a green light for heavy drinking?

Hardly. In an interview with the CBC, lead author Tim Stockwell said that there was nothing wrong with drinking per se, but that people should remain skeptical when it comes to alcohol's health benefits. "We should drink alcohol for pleasure," Stockwell told the CBC. "But if you think it's for your health, you're deluding yourself." Ouch.