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Just what the doctor ordered—more alcohol and sex

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 20 December 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1637

Anything I want to do is illegal, fattening, or causes cancer in mice

  1. Anthony J Cleare (, Senior clinical research fellowa,
  2. Simon C Wessely (, Professor of epidemiological and liaison psychiatryb
  1. a
  2. b Department of Psychological Medicine, Kings College School of Medicine and Dentistry and the Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5 8AF

So the hedonists were right. At this time of year it is traditional, even in such an open minded journal as the BMJ, to warn with varying degrees of humour or pomposity about the dangers of overindulgence, from the hazards of obesity to the cure for hangovers. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die, has always carried with it the assumption that all three activities directly contribute to the undesired outcome. However, this issue of the BMJ contains intriguing suggestions that eating, drinking, and being merry (in this case a euphemism for sexual activity) defer mortality, presumably allowing added years of more of the same.

We read that alcohol makes you live longer (p 1664)1 and, much more tentatively, so does sex (p 1641).2 Last year we learnt that attending musical events or making music acted similarly.3 The doctor who, in reply to the question, “Will I live longer if I give up drinking and sex?” replied, “No, but it will seem like it” may have been right all along. The only dissonant voice comes from the world of soap operas, which often seem to be dominated by sex and drinking and which seriously damage the health of their characters (p 1649 …

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