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Moderate Drinkers Take Less Sick Leave

Excerpt By Keith Mulvihill, Reuter's Health

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Not only may moderate drinking promote heart health, new study findings from Finland have found that people who consume alcohol a few times each week may actually miss less work.

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 added.

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 concluded.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology 2002;156:969-976.

Reference Source 89


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