Why do we keep drinking alcohol? Why do we even have some people claiming that alcohol is good for you?
For starters, media keeps running articles titled “The World’s Oldest Man Drank a Glass of Red Wine Every Single Day” ([How the Oldest Man in the World Lived to 113 – Diet and Exercise of Francisco Núñez Olivera](https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/health/a16635201/oldest-man-world-diet-exercise-red-wine/)) This is appealing for their audience because it triggers their confirmation bias — any evidence that corresponds with the reality you wish for is more likely to catch your attention.
Let’s look at some stats from 2015 from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (1):
* More than 15 million adults abuse alcohol (only 7% of these are receiving treatment)
* Almost 90.000 people die in the US alone each year from alcohol related causes, making this the third leading preventable cause of death.
* Less than half get killed in traffic each year
* Firearms and drug abuse kill less people with a good margin (2)
* In 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249.0 billion.
The positive impression the public hold towards alcohol is mainly fuelled by media and their advertiser backers. And for those who don’t have a positive impression of alcohol, it is usually a more downplayed version (“It’s not that bad for you”). Newsflash, you don’t need it and it’s not good for you.
Another very common explanation to why alcohol is good for you can be found in studies where they look at correlations. Take this article from Newsweek: “Drinking alcohol tied to long life in new study”. The researcher is quoted in the article saying:
> “I have no explanation for it, but I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity,”
The researcher clearly states that just because that two things happen together don’t necessarily cause on another. Correlation does not mean causation.
Here is another mindless article: “Drinking alcohol is better for you than exercise when it comes to living longer, says awesome study” ([Drinking Alcohol Is Better for You Than Exercise When It Comes To Living Longer, Says Awesome New Study – Maxim](https://www.maxim.com/food-drink/drinking-is-better-for-you-than-exercise-2018-2). What the actual hell? I don’t get why people read this stuff.
Media loves pulling out stories like these. If you look around the world you are bound to find some stories about that 108 year old Japanese man who drinks wine, smokes and eats candy everyday — at least according to his own claims. Such anecdotes should have no place in the context of public health topics like alcohol and drinking.
## Let’s get real about alcohol
A study published by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2018 sums it up nicely (3):
> We found that the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of [alcohol] consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero.
In another extensive study by The Lancet (4), they came to a similar conclusion: no amount of alcohol is healthy for you.
According to this study, people who drank one drink per day for a year had a 0.5% increased risk of one of the 23 alcohol-related health problems. If you up that to two drinks per day the risk increased to 7%. In other words, one drink is not likely to cause much harm, but if we are being honest – how often do you end up drinking only one drink?
For all of you high achievers out there, let me also remind you of the dreadful day-after — the hangover. Never mind the fact that you’ll be flat out for most of the day, but your drinking ends up taking two full days out of your schedule. Let’s be honest, will you be able to get anything useful done the day after? I don’t think so.
## It’s not just about how long you live but also about quality of life
I’ve heard people say things like “/If I live until I reach 80 then I’ll be happy for having lived a long life/”.
This is likely to be the case for many of us. However, making all the way to 80-years old won’t be much fun if you have spent the majority of your life in bad health.
Maximising your life shouldn’t only be about how long you can manage to stay alive, but more importantly how long you can live a healthy life.
I’ve meet 70 year old people who are a lot more fit and better thinkers than people in their 20’s. Can you imagine going for another 50 years with poor health?
1) [Alcohol Facts and Statistics | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)](https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics)
2) [Preventable causes of death – Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preventable_causes_of_death)
3) [Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. – PubMed – NCBI](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30146330)
4) [Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 – The Lancet](https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2818%2931310-2/fulltext)