For a long, long, long, long time, medical research has shown that people who don't drink die sooner than people who do. There's just no way to sugar coat this kind of thing. Barring disaster, unforeseen calamity or my getting run over by a Guinness truck, if you wave off the barley pop and whiskey sours, you're gonna find yourself in the long box before me. Sorry 'bout that.
The good folks from Alcoholics Anonymous have always come back with the defense that many people who show up as abstainers in these reams of papers and long-running studies are actually former heavy drinkers who've already suffered the ravages of a Tommy Lee lifestyle before 12-stepping into the future, and so are more likely to kick young when their livers try to leap clear of their bodies. But the authors of a new study, published in the current issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (and written about this week in TIME magazine) say no, we looked into that. And you non-drinkers out there? Still gonna die sooner than that wino at the end of the bar.Okay, fine, say the doubters. Then how 'bout this: Statistically speaking, the majority of those who abstain from alcohol completely are from the lower socioeconomic classes and these people have more stress in their lives than some high-flying corporate CEO knocking back a couple flutes of Cristal while joyriding in his private jet. They have to worry about child care and money problems and buying shoes and whatever else it is that poor people worry about. Their lives suck pretty hard already, and without booze to make it all tolerable? Well is it any wonder that they're bedding down for the big dirt nap younger than their counterparts whose biggest stress is getting a good table at The Palm for their anniversary?
To which the authors of this new study said, Nuh-uh. We looked into that, too. As a matter of fact, according to the report in TIME, these guys thought of just about everything.
The article states that, "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."
"Moderate drinkers," by the way, means those who have between 1 and 3 drinks per day. If those drinks happen to be red wine, that's excellent. If they happen to be glasses of super-call whiskey garnished with hundred-dollar bills and delivered by morally-challenged strippers, even better. Because although the results of the study seem to confound even its authors to a certain extent, the one thing they know for sure is that the regular consumption of Irish brain lubricant appears to be directly linked to regular social interaction and regular social interaction is vital for the living of a long and happy life. Unsurprisingly, those who take their iced tea without Long Island-ing it up also report much higher levels of depression than those who regularly stop for a couple pops after work. And now that they know they're going to die sooner, too? Well, that can't help the depression at all...
The figures shook out like this: During the 20 years of the study (in which 1824 people between the ages of 55 and 65 were followed), 69% of the non-drinkers died, 60% of the heavy drinkers went to that big barroom in the sky, and only 41% of the moderate drinkers booked a trip to the sweet hereafter. A 28% difference between 3-a-day boozers and Temperance League members is not just statistically significant, it's statistically huge, and though there are sure to be lots of complaints about the mechanics of the study in years to come, it still provides the best proof yet that long after all the gentle, temperate, dry souls out there have gone onto their final reward, I will still be propping up the long oak and buying rounds.
At least three a day, if I know what's good for me.