According to WHO (2021), 3 million deaths per year are due to harmful use of alcohol and as far as I know, no deaths per year are attributed to NOT drinking alcohol. Sounds like a win for the alcohol abstainers, but not so fast, there are people who live very long and healthy lives whilst enjoying alcohol, what about them?
People living in so-called ‘blue zones’ around the world have some of the healthiest and oldest people in the world, and these people often drink regularly, if not daily, as part of their culture. Go figure! This may be due to a moderate intake of red wine, which is high in antioxidant polyphenols and a culture based around social drinking and sharing meals instead of binge drinking.
Additionally some evidence shows that alcohol abstainers do not live as long as low alcohol drinkers. That being said, the populations more likely to drink alcohol globally are the high socio-economic populations who tend to have longer life expectancies anyway due to better healthcare, education and opportunities. This doesn’t mean that it’s the alcohol helping them to live longer.
Another thing that can skew our view of the life expectancy of alcohol abstainers is that this group typically also includes prior alcohol users and abusers which is linked to unhealthy behaviours that could reduce life span before they became alcohol abstinent.
It turns out that those without a history of drinking have a life expectancy similar to that of low alcohol consumers (5). Meaning that in all likelihood alcohol doesn’t make you live longer but it can be part of a healthy lifestyle in small amounts, and not necessarily shorten your life.
Ultimately your life expectancy and quality of life is affected by so much more than just how much alcohol you decide to drink. It is a good idea for your health and longevity to abstain from or limit alcohol intake whilst also tackling other hugely important lifestyle behaviours.