Modest drinking of any type of alcohol has been linked to better
health, particularly cardiovascular health, and wine has stood
out as especially beneficial. Some researchers speculate that
certain properties of wine, such as its antioxidant content, may
give the beverage an added benefit above and beyond its alcohol
content. However, studies have also suggested that wine drinkers
may just have healthier lifestyles overall.
The new findings suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may
reduce health problems other than those associated with cardiovascular
illness, the researchers report.
"We found that lifelong abstainers, former drinkers and heavy
drinkers had higher rates of sick leaves than moderate drinkers,"
the study's lead author, Dr. Jussi Vahtera of the Finnish Institute
of Occupational Health, told Reuters Health.
"The elevated risk in non-drinkers was not due to differences
in lifestyle or psychological or social factors," the researcher
In the study, absence from work due to sickness was based on
a physician's examination, explained Vahtera.
"Typically, abstainers have slightly higher mortality than moderate
drinkers while heavy drinkers have a much higher rate than the
former two groups," said Vahtera. "But no clear pattern was discovered
in earlier studies on the relationship between alcohol intake
and other health outcomes, such as sickness absence."
In the current investigation, the team of researchers evaluated
the relationship between consumption of alcohol and the amount
of sick leave a person took from their job. In all, the medical
records of more than 6,000 men and women were reviewed.
The rate of medically certified sickness absence was 1.2 times
higher for non-drinkers, former drinkers and heavy drinkers compared
to lighter drinkers, the authors report in the November issue
of the American Journal of Epidemiology.
"The high rate of sickness absences among heavy drinkers may
be due to a greater incidence of alcohol-induced diseases, a more
severe course of these or other diseases, poorer treatment or
compliance to treatment, and inferior functional capacity due
to excessive alcohol consumption," Vahtera noted.
"The higher rate of sickness absences among non-drinkers than
among moderate drinkers may result from a lack of the protective
effects of alcohol intake," the researcher added.
"Our findings suggest that light alcohol intake may reduce not
only cardiovascular disease but also other health problems," Vahtera
SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology 2002;156:969-976.