Alcohol Impacts on Health, Under and Over 40

A new global study finds that a person’s age can make a difference in whether alcohol consumption is safe or not.

Previous research has focused primarily on sex as a determining factor in alcohol consumption risk. But the authors of this study state that age would be a better basis for global, national, and local guidelines on alcohol consumption, not whether a person is male or female.  

The report released last week examined 30 years of data on people (ages 15 to 95) from over 200 countries. It found that in 2020, 1.34 billion individuals globally drank unhealthy amounts of alcohol (almost 60% were between 15 and 39 years old, and most were male).

The findings suggest that if you’re under 40 years of age, there are no health benefits from alcohol, only health consequences – particularly alcohol-related deaths such as car accidents and injury.

The report says those over 40 and in relatively good health can enjoy small amounts of alcohol, which may reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.  However, no one at any age should drink alcohol to obtain a specific health benefit. The pros may not outweigh the cons.

For everyone else (those under 40 or with underlying health conditions), alcohol is considered “harmful at all levels of consumption.”

“The elephant in the room with this study is the interpretation of risk based on outcomes for cardiovascular disease – particularly in older people,” according to Dr. Tony Rao, visiting clinical research fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience at King’s College London.

“We know that any purported health benefits from alcohol on the heart and circulation are balanced out by the increased risk from other conditions such as cancer, liver disease and mental disorders such as depression and dementia.”

Additionally, those over 65 should proceed with caution regarding alcohol consumption, especially if they are on certain medications that can interact with alcohol or if they are prone to falls and injury.

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