Over at The Atlantic, Neil Wagner brings attention to a recent, sobering study of alcohol used in Italy: 2,000 alcoholic participants were found to have much higher death rates than the general population — and from a whole range of different causes, including cancer, diabetes, infections, and diseases of the immunological, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems. Women who drank fared slightly better than men, but still worse than those who don’t consume large quantities of alcohol.
As Wagner points out, alcohol isn’t exactly touted as a social virtue. Most of us already know that excessive, compulsive alcohol consumption can damage your health and your appearance, can interfere with career mobility, and can have a devastating impact on close relationships. But this comprehensive study, with its clear correlation between drinking and serious health consequences, offers the message that drinking less alcohol is better — even though we’ve been getting lots of mixed messages over the years about just how much alcohol is the right amount.
For now, it appears unclear just how much alcohol is the best amount for our health. Some studies have found that those that drink sparingly have a longer life expectancy. But the Million Women Study examined the effects of drinking on cancer rates in women, and found that any alcohol consumption increased the risk of cancer. A new blog, The Drinking Diaries, examines women’s relationships with alcohol, questioning when and how and why we imbibe. And The Toronto Star recently ran a series about women and problematic alcohol consumption.
So can I still have a glass of red wine every night? I think so. But I’m starting to think twice when it comes to splitting a bottle.