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Wine Consumption and 20-Year Mortality Among Late-Life Moderate Drinkers

Charles J. Holahan, Kathleen K. Schutte, Penny L. Brennan, Rebecca J. North, Carole K. Holahan, Bernice S. Moos, Rudolf H. Moos

Objective: This study examined level of wine consumption and total mortality among 802 older adults ages 5565 at baseline, controlling for key sociodemographic, behavioral, and health status factors. Despite a growing consensus that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced total mortality, whether wine consumption provides an additional, unique protective effect is unresolved. Method: Participants were categorized in three subsamples: abstainers, high-wine-consumption moderate drinkers, and low-wine-consumption moderate drinkers. Alcohol consumption, sociodemographic factors, health behavior, and health problems were assessed at baseline; total mortality was indexed across an ensuing 20-year period. Results: After adjusting for all covariates, both high-wine-consumption and low-wine-consumption moderate drinkers showed reduced mortality risks compared with abstainers. Further, compared with moderate drinkers for whom a high proportion of ethanol came from wine, those for whom a low proportion of ethanol came from wine were older, were more likely to be male, reported more health problems, were more likely to be tobacco smokers, scored lower on socioeconomic status, and (statistical trend) reported engaging in less physical activity. Controlling only for overall ethanol consumption, compared with moderate drinkers for whom a high proportion of ethanol came from wine, those for whom a low proportion of ethanol came from wine showed a substantially increased 20-year mortality risk of 85%. However, after controlling for all covariates, the initial mortality difference associated with wine consumption was no longer significant. Conclusions: Among older adults who are moderate drinkers, the apparent unique effects of wine on longevity may be explained by confounding factors correlated with wine consumption. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 8088, 2012)