The team analyzed the data from 340,668 National Health Interview Survey participants ages 18 to 85 and additional 93,653 participants ages 40 to 60 who were treated as outpatients at Veterans Administration clinics in the United States. Their findings suggest that one or two drinks four times a week - an amount deemed perfectly healthy in happier times - actually increases the risk of premature death by a full twenty percent.
This recent observation comes on the heels of another study published in the medical journal The Lancet which concluded that countries should amend their alcohol guidelines because there are no benefits to drinking.
"It used to seem like having one or two drinks per day was no big deal, and there even have been some studies suggesting it can improve health", says one of the study's authors, Dr. Sarah M. Hartz, an assistant professor of psychiatry and big-time party pooper.
Lead author Dr Sarah Hartz said it may be helpful to advise people at risk of heart disease to drink occasionally but encourage those susceptible to cancer to avoid it altogether.
Researchers at the University of Arizona School of Medicine have previously stated that drinking wine within safe limits can promote good cardiovascular health and prevent cognitive decline. As Hartz said, "With regard to the risk of cancer, and the slightest amount of alcohol is harmful".
She said that her and her colleagues' research found that any level of drinking is tied to an increased risk of early death, cancer, and cardiovascular events. The increased risk of death was consistent across all age groups.
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After analyzing over 400,000 US adults between the ages of 18 and 85, the study's lead author Dr. Sarah Hartz and her team found that those who consumed alcohol on four or more days a week on average had a 20% increase in their risk of early death.
"Moderate" drinking refers to about one drink, or less, a day, according to a report by Harvard University.
She predicted that as medicine becomes more personalized, some doctors may recommend that people with family histories of heart problems have a drink from time to time, but in families with a history of cancer, physicians may recommend abstinence.
"A 20 percent increase in risk of death is a much bigger deal in older people who already are a higher risk", Hartz said in a statement. She explained that since very few people die in their 20s, a 20% increased risk of premature death is less significant at that age than it would be for someone in their 70s.
Still, the overall message is that even if you're young and in good shape, you "should no longer consider a glass of wine a day to somehow be healthy".