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Did You Know? Young Adult Women Who Drink in Moderation Report Better Health than Abstainers and Other Types of Drinkers

October 26, 2016
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Women in their 20s and early 30s who drink three to seven alcoholic beverages per week, considered moderate drinkers, self-report their health status more positively than their female peers who do not drink alcohol, those who have fewer than three drinks per week, and those who have more than seven drinks per week. That is the key finding of a new study, from the School’s Department of Health Sector Management and Policy, published in the October 2016 issue of Social Science and Medicine, one of the leading health services research journals.

Building upon existing research that found positive health effects associated with moderate drinking among the full range of adults, this study, for the first time, looked specifically at a younger demographic, men and women in their 20s and early 30s. The researchers analyzed data on more than 15,000 young adult men and women across five categories of drinkers: heavy, moderate, light, infrequent, former drinkers, and lifetime abstainers.

The main findings can be summarized as follows.

  • Like their older counterparts, your adult women who drink moderately report better health status than light drinkers, heavy drinkers, and non-drinkers. 
  • The results for young adult men are less precise and conclusive, but pointed to a similar moderate drinking effect as with women.

“Although the estimated relationships demonstrate strong associations rather than causality per se between moderate drinking and self-reported health status, the results have important clinical and policy implications because these relationships has not been examined in young adult samples.  Perhaps the effects of moderate drinking among young adults differ between men and women because each gender has different motivations and expectations for drinking, as well as the type of beverages each consume,” said Michael T. French, professor of health sector management and policy at the School of Business.

“Drinking among young men may be primarily a social activity to connect with peers, whereas for women, it may help to establish and maintain social bonds while also relieving stress,” added French, who conducted the research with Bisma Ali Sayed, who is affiliated with the Health Economics Research Group at the University of Miami.  “Moderate drinking in this context may have an overall positive impact on physical and mental health for young adult women. Moreover, women tend to prefer a greater variety of alcoholic beverage than men, and they consume lower quantities with less frequency, which could also contribute to better health.”

The University of Miami study is available here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953616304701.

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