Drinking alcohol poses greater health risks for young people than for the elderly

Summary: A new study reports that older adults who consume alcohol are less likely to have negative health risks than younger adults. Researchers said the lower levels of alcohol consumed by healthy older adults could have some health benefits.

source: scalpel

Young people face greater health risks from alcohol consumption than older adults, according to a new analysis published in scalpel.

This is the first study to report the risks of alcohol by geographic region, age, gender, and year. It is suggested that global alcohol consumption recommendations should be based on age and location, with strict guidelines targeting males between the ages of 15 and 39, who are most at risk of harmful alcohol consumption worldwide.

The research also suggests that adults aged 40 or older without underlying health conditions may see some benefits from consuming less alcohol (between one and two standard drinks per day), including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. stroke and diabetes.

Using estimates of alcohol use in 204 countries, researchers estimated that 1.34 billion people consumed harmful amounts in 2020. In each region, the largest share of the population who drank unsafe amounts of alcohol was males between the ages of 15 and 39, and for For this age group, they drink Alcohol offers no health benefits and presents many health risks, with 60% of alcohol-related injuries occurring among people in this age group, including car accidents, suicides, and homicides.

Our message is simple: Young people should not drink, but older adults may benefit from drinking smaller amounts. While it may not be realistic to think that young people will abstain from drinking, we believe it is important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health, says senior author Dr. and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Age and region should pay alcohol consumption policies

Researchers looked at the risks of alcohol consumption on 22 health outcomes, including injuries, cardiovascular disease, and cancers using the 2020 Global Burden of Disease data for males and females aged 15-95 and over between 1990 and 2020, in 204 countries and territories.

From this, the researchers were able to estimate the average daily intake of alcohol that reduces the risk to the population. The study also estimates another critical quantity – the amount of alcohol a person can drink before putting themselves at increased risk to their health compared to someone who doesn’t drink any alcohol.

The recommended amount of alcohol for people ages 15 to 39 before the risk of losing health was 0.136 standard drinks per day (just over one-tenth of a standard drink). This amount was slightly higher for females aged 15 to 39 at 0.273 drinks (about a quarter of a standard drink per day).

One standard drink is defined as 10 grams of pure alcohol, which is equivalent to a small glass of red wine (100 ml or 3.4 fl oz) at 13% alcohol by volume, or a can or bottle of beer (375 ml or 12 fl oz) at a concentration 3.5% alcohol by volume, or a shot of whiskey or other spirits (30 ml or 1.0 fluid ounce) at 40% alcohol by volume.

The analysis also suggests that for adults age 40 or older who don’t have any underlying health conditions, drinking a small amount of alcohol may provide some benefits, such as a reduced risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Overall, for individuals aged 40-64 years in 2020, levels of safe alcohol consumption ranged from about half a standard drink per day (0.527 standard drinks per day for males and 0.562 standard drinks per day for females) to approximately two standard drinks (1.69 standard drinks per day) day for males and 1.82 for females).

For individuals over 65 years of age in 2020, the risk of health loss from alcohol consumption was reached after drinking just over three standard drinks per day (3.19 drinks for males and 3.51 for females).

It is estimated that small amounts of alcohol consumption in populations over 40 years of age with no underlying conditions may be associated with improved health outcomes, particularly in populations that often face a greater burden of cardiovascular disease.

The distribution of disease burden for a given age group varied significantly across regions, resulting in differences in risk from alcohol consumption, particularly in individuals 40 years of age and older. For example, among individuals aged 55-59 years in North Africa and the Middle East, 30.7% of alcohol-related health risks were due to cardiovascular disease, 12.6% were due to cancer, and less than 1% were due to tuberculosis.

By contrast, in this same age group in central sub-Saharan Africa, 20% of alcohol-related health risks were due to cardiovascular disease, 9.8% from cancers, and 10.1% from tuberculosis. As a result, consumption levels for this age group before risking health loss were 0.876 drinks (or approximately one standard drink per day) in North Africa and the Middle East and 0.596 drinks (about half a standard drink per day) in central sub-Saharan Africa.

Overall, recommended adult alcohol intake remained low at 0-1.87 standard drink per day, regardless of geography, age, gender, or year.

“Even if a conservative approach is taken and the lowest level of safe consumption is used to make policy recommendations, this means that the recommended level of alcohol consumption is still too high for the younger population. Our estimates, based on the evidence currently available, support support guidelines that vary by age. and region.

“Understanding the variance in the level of alcohol consumption that reduces the health risk of a population can help establish effective consumption guidelines, support alcohol control policies, monitor progress in reducing harmful alcohol use, and design public health risk messages,” says Lead. The author is Dana Pryazka, researcher at IHME.

Young people are most at risk of harmful alcohol consumption

Using these estimates, the proportion of the population consuming alcohol in amounts beyond these thresholds was also calculated by location, age, gender, and year, to serve as a guide for targeting alcohol control efforts.

Of the individuals who consumed harmful amounts of alcohol in 2020, 59.1% were 15-39 years old, and 76.7% were male, with 1.03 billion males and 0.312 billion females who drank harmful amounts of alcohol. The harmful use of alcohol is particularly concentrated in young males in Australia, Western Europe and Central Europe.

“Although the risks associated with alcohol consumption are similar for males and females, young males have emerged as the group with the highest level of harmful alcohol consumption. This is because a greater proportion of males than females consume alcohol, and their average level of consumption is higher Significantly,” says Dr. Jacquido.

The authors acknowledge some limitations in this paper, including that drinking patterns were not examined. Therefore, this study did not distinguish between individuals who rarely engage in occasional heavy drinking and those who consume the same amount of alcohol over several days.

Self-reported alcohol consumption was also reported, which could lead to bias, and the study could not include data on consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic due to pandemic-related delays with routine data collection, which could also affect these estimates.

see also

This shows a person pouring a glass of wine
The analysis also suggests that for adults age 40 or older who don’t have any underlying health conditions, drinking a small amount of alcohol may provide some benefits, such as a reduced risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The image is in the public domain

Robyn Burton and Nick Sheron of King’s College London (who were not involved in the study) say in a related comment: “These results appear to conflict with the previous global burden of disease estimate published in scalpel, which confirmed that any use of alcohol, regardless of the amount, leads to a loss of health in the population. There are three main differences between the two global burden of disease publications.

First, the most recent study uses data from 2020 rather than 2016. Second, the relative hazards curves for five alcohol-related outcomes were updated. However, none of these changes cause differences in results. Instead, the differences are due to the new method of weighting proportional hazards curves according to levels of baseline disease, along with calculating more detailed estimates by sex, age, and geographic region.

The causes that contribute to all-cause mortality vary across groups, and this changes the relative risks of alcohol to mortality. Across most of the geographic regions in this latest analysis, injuries accounted for the most alcohol-related damage in younger age groups. This resulted in a risk level below zero, or very close to zero, among individuals aged 15 to 39 years in all geographic regions.

“This is below the level estimated for older adults, due to the shift in the burden of alcohol-related disease toward cardiovascular disease and cancers. This highlights the need to consider current disease rates in the population when trying to determine the overall harm caused by alcohol.”

About this alcohol news and aging research

author: press office
source: scalpel
Contact: Press Office – The Lancet
picture: The image is in the public domain

original search: open access.
Population-level risk of alcohol consumption by quantity, geography, age, gender, and year: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2020 by Dana Bryazka et al. scalpel


Population-level risk of alcohol consumption by quantity, geography, age, sex, and year: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2020


The health risks associated with moderate alcohol consumption are still debated. Small amounts of alcohol may reduce the risk of some health outcomes but increase the risk of others, indicating that overall risk depends, in part, on background disease rates, which vary by region, age, sex, and year.


For this analysis, we constructed dose-response-weighted relative risk curves across 22 health outcomes to estimate the theoretical minimum level of exposure (TMREL) and the non-drinkers equation (NDE), the level of consumption at which health risks are equivalent to a non-drinker, using disease rates from a study Global Burden of Disease, Injury and Risk Factors (GBD) 2020 for 21 regions, including 204 countries and territories, by 5-year age group, sex, and year for individuals aged 15-95 years and over from 1990 to 2020. Based on the experience of Near death, we quantified the population that consumes harmful amounts of alcohol.

the findings

Burden-weighted relative hazards curves for alcohol use varied by region and age. Among individuals aged 15-39 years in 2020, TMREL varied between 0 (95% uncertainty interval 0-0) and 0 603 (0 400-1 00) standard drink of the day, and NEP varied from Death between 0.002 (0-0) and 1 75 (0 698-4 30) standard drink per day. Among individuals aged 40 years and older, the burden-weighted proportional hazards curve was J-shaped for all regions, with 2020 TMREL ranging from 0 114 (0-0 403) to 1 87 (0 500-3) 30) standard drinks per day and the NDE ranged between 0193 (0-0.900) and 6 94 (3 40-8 30) standard drinks per day. Among individuals who consumed harmful amounts of alcohol in 2020, 591% (54.3-65.4) were aged 15-39 years and 76.9% (73.0-81.3) were male.


There is strong evidence to support recommendations regarding alcohol consumption that vary by age and location. Stronger interventions, particularly those for younger individuals, are needed to reduce the significant global health losses attributable to alcohol.


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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