Study Reveals The Age Drinking Alcohol Starts To Offer Health Benefits

Oh, to be young, right? Our culture's rampant fetishization of youth can lead us to believe that value fades with age. It seems that young people are fonts of beauty and innovation, vanguards of reinvention clad in nigh-impervious, durable bodies that cast in stark contrast the weakness and vulnerability incumbent to those of increased age.

But young people and young bodies do not hold the keys to the kingdom — not all of them anyway. There are advantages to aging. As reported in Smithsonian Magazine, people over 60 generally have improved social-emotional skills and deal with conflict in healthier ways. And, the BBC notes, the immune system tends to improve in function and susceptibility to allergens decreases as we get on in years.

And now, according to a study published by The Lancet, researchers have discovered a benefit developed later in life in regard to the body's response to alcohol that just might make folks of a certain age raise a glass in their honor.

The benefits of age

It's no surprise that prolonged over-consumption of alcohol can have deleterious effects on your health. The Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) notes that excessive alcohol intake can lead to an increased risk for hypertension, heart disease, liver disease, and a host of cancers.

However, scientists working on the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study have released findings that shed further light on the relationship between age and alcohol's effects on the body. Published in The Lancet, the study explains that for individuals younger than 40, alcohol has the most profound negative impact. Those 40 and older, though, who are free from other health risks, experience slight benefits from very moderate alcohol consumption, including a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes (per The Guardian).

These maladies are exactly what provide the age-specific line of demarcation. As younger people generally have a lower overall risk of cardiovascular disease (via National Institute on Aging), the offset provided by moderate alcohol consumption is negligible, whereas the increased risk for those 40 and older makes alcohol a net positive. Further, the study found no significant difference in risk levels between men and women among either age group.

This begs reconsideration of optimal alcohol consumption guidelines that may be written too broadly. The researchers for the GBD suggest that perhaps a variety of guidelines that take into account age, underlying health concerns, and other factors could offer the public a more accurate view of the associated pros and cons of alcohol consumption.