Exact Number of Days, Months and Years Alcohol Shortens Your Life

By Cassidy Morrison Senior Health Reporter for Dailymail.Com

16:53 06 Jul 2024, updated 16:55 06 Jul 2024

  • READ MORE: Drinking ANY amount of alcohol is harmful to health, experts warn

One of the world’s leading experts on alcohol and longevity has revealed how many days, months and years alcohol can shorten your life.

And the results may surprise people.

On average, just two drinks per week (a bottle of beer, a few glasses of wine, or a few shots of spirits) over a lifetime can shorten a person’s life by only three to six days.

Drinking one drink a day shortens a person’s life by two and a half months.

It is precisely those people who drink heavily – regularly drinking 35 drinks a week (about five drinks a day or two bottles of whiskey in seven days) – who shorten their lives by about two years.

That’s according to Dr. Tim Stockwell, a scientist at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, who was a staunch advocate of moderate drinking until a fellow scientist alerted him to major flaws in medical research.

He pointed to the findings of extensive research conducted over the past five years, including his own research that served as the basis for the Canadian government’s alcohol guidelines, and said no amount is good for you.

Dr. Stockwell cautions that his predictions are averages and that some people are luckier than others when it comes to their health.

However, the growing body of evidence raises the question of whether Americans, including those responsible for health guidelines, ignore or downplay the risks of alcohol use because it is such an ingrained part of our culture.

Last year, Ireland became the first country in the world to pass legislation requiring all alcoholic drinks to carry a health warning on alcoholic beverage labels.

The CDC graphs show the average number of deaths from excessive alcohol consumption from 2016 through 2021

The labels read: ‘There is a direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers.’ The policy will go into effect in 2026.

Meanwhile, Canada recently proposed revised guidelines to recommend drinking no more than two alcoholic drinks per week, a dramatic reduction from the previous limit of 15 drinks for men and 10 drinks for women.

Last year, President Biden’s chief health officer, Dr. George Koob, predicted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture could align its advice on alcohol consumption with Canada’s.

The official changes to the health messages reflect a dramatic shift in the way doctors and ordinary Americans view alcohol and its safety. These changes are based on important research that debunks the myth that a little here and there is healthy.

Last year, Dr. Stockwell led a meta-analysis of more than 107 studies published over the past four decades, which found that no amount of alcohol improves health, and that alcohol may actually increase your risk of death from all causes.

And a 2022 study led by Harvard University scientists found that “alcohol consumption at all levels was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

According to the CDC, the average number of deaths per year from excessive alcohol use, from direct causes such as car accidents and liver damage to indirect causes such as mental health problems or heart disease, increased by about 29 percent from nearly 138,000 in 2016 to 2017 to more than 178,000 in 2020 to 2021.

That’s more than the number of drug overdose deaths reported in 2022, when the number was about 108,000.

This may seem like a higher number than expected, given Dr. Stockwell’s relatively moderate conclusions about the impact of alcohol on life expectancy.

Heavy drinkers who consume five or more glasses a day may see a reduction in their life expectancy of two years or more

However, the difference can probably be explained by the fact that many alcohol-related deaths occur quickly, for example from a car accident and acute liver failure. These deaths have a direct impact on mortality rates.

Deaths from chronic diseases, such as alcohol-related heart disease, are steadily increasing.

Dr Stockwell said: ‘Alcohol is our favourite recreational drug. We use it for fun and relaxation, and the last thing we want to hear is that it causes harm… it’s comforting to think that drinking is good for our health, but unfortunately it’s based on bad science.’

Alcohol has been shown to damage organs including the brain and nervous system, heart, liver and pancreas. Alcohol itself is a toxin and causes cell damage and inflammation during metabolism.

It can increase blood pressure and contribute to the development of heart disease, it disrupts the body’s absorption of nutrients and it suppresses the immune system.

The belief that moderate amounts of alcohol are healthy stems from a phenomenon that has become known as the French paradox: the curious fact that the French, who eat rich, fatty foods and drink above-average amounts of red wine, have relatively low rates of heart disease compared with other countries.

The idea that moderate drinking is healthy appealed to Americans and they quickly accepted it.

But much of the research into the supposed benefits of drinking has been funded by the alcohol industry. In fact, a recent report found that 13,500 studies have been funded directly or indirectly by the industry.

Click here to resize this module

A major impetus for the reevaluation of that accepted logic was Dr. Stockwell’s research, which he conducted with Kaye Middleton Fillmore, a sociologist at the University of California at San Francisco.

They questioned the validity of studies that suggested health benefits. One reason is that people who drink red wine tend to have healthier diets and lifestyles, which could explain their overall well-being.

This does not mean that red wine itself is responsible for the health benefits, but rather that it is the lifestyle that accompanies red wine drinking.

The researchers have also suggested that non-drinkers in studies appear unhealthy because they have stopped drinking due to a health problem.

Dr Stockwell said: ‘These teetotalers are often older people who have given up alcohol because their health was poor.

‘If you can drink, that is a sign that you are still healthy, not the reason you are in good health.

“There are many ways in which these studies produce false results that are misinterpreted as evidence that alcohol is good for you.”

Federal records of alcohol-related deaths show that these rates have increased over the past two decades.

Red wine in particular has long been considered heart-healthy. It contains compounds called polyphenols, which are believed to help protect the lining of the blood vessels in the heart.

One particular polyphenol, resveratrol, has received the most attention, but research into its benefits has only been conducted in mice.

According to Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, you would have to drink 100 to 1,000 glasses of red wine a day to ingest an amount equal to the dosage that improved the health of mice.

Federal guidelines recommend that men drink no more than two drinks a day, and women stick to one. But research suggests that even that is too much.

A 2022 policy statement from the World Heart Federation, WHO’s lead partner in cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention, states: ‘Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not good for the heart.

‘This is at odds with the prevailing view that alcohol prolongs life, mainly by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.’

Leave a Comment