Alcohol may help seniors to avoid physical disability

Alcohol may help seniors to avoid physical disability

New research suggests that light to moderate alcohol consumption may help to stave off the development of physical disabilities.

It has been known for some time that moderate alcohol consumption can be good for you, for example drinking a couple of glasses of wine can boost heart health. However, results of a new study by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles suggest that seniors who are in good health can help to remain so by enjoying the occasional tipple.

Dr Arun Karlamangla and colleagues studied data of 4,276 men and women with a mean age of 60.4 years. At the start of the survey, 32% of men and 51% of women did not drink alcohol (defined as drinking less than 12 drinks per year), 51% of men and 45% of women were light to moderate drinkers (defined as drinking less than 15 drinks per week), and 17% of men and 4% women were heavy drinkers (defined as drinking more than 15 drinks per week). No participants had any disabilities at the start of the study.

At follow-up five years later, 7% of participants had died and 15% had become physically disabled, meaning that they had trouble performing, or were unable to perform normal activities of daily living, such as walking, dressing, and eating. After taking into account risk factors for disability, such as age, smoking, exercise, and heart attack and stroke history, results showed that seniors who rated their health as good or better and who consumed light to moderate amounts of alcohol, reduced their risk of physical disability by 3 to 8% for each additional drink per week. No benefit was seen in seniors who rated their health as fair or poor, nor in heavy drinkers.

The authors concluded: “Light to moderate alcohol consumption appears to have disability prevention benefits only in men and women in relatively good health. It is possible that those who report poor health have progressed too far on the pathway to disability to accrue benefits from alcohol consumption and that alcohol consumption may even be deleterious for them.”