The research team divided nondrinkers into three general categories: "abstainers," or people who have never had more than 12 drinks in their lives; "infrequent drinkers," or people who have fewer than 12 drinks a year; and "former drinkers." Each category was further divided using a statistical technique that grouped people together who gave similar clusters of reasons for not drinking.
The team then calculated the mortality risk for each subgroup compared with the mortality risk for light drinkers, and they found that the risks varied markedly.
Abstainers who chose not to drink for a cluster of reasons that included religious or moral motivations, being brought up not to drink, responsibilities to their family, as well as not liking the taste, had similar mortality risks over the follow-up period to light drinkers.
"So this idea that nondrinkers always have higher mortality than light drinkers isn't true," Rogers said. "You can find some groups of nondrinkers who have similar mortality risks to light drinkers."
The other subgroup of abstainers whose largest reason for not drinking appeared to be a dislike of the taste and to a lesser degree family responsibilities, religious or moral motivations or upbringing had a 17 percent higher mortality risk over the follow-up period compared with light drinkers.
The scientists also found that infrequent drinkers generally had a slightly higher mortality risk than light drinkers. Former drinkers, however, had the highest mortality risk of all nondrinkers. Former drinkers whose cluster of reasons for not drinking now included being an alcoholic and problems with drinking, for example, had a 38 percent higher mortality risk than light drinkers over the follow-up period.
By comparison, people who drink b
|Contact: Richard Rogers|
University of Colorado at Boulder