Intended for healthcare professionals


Harms of alcohol in different age groups

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: (Published 10 August 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o1979
  1. Colin Angus, senior research fellow
  1. Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, ScHARR, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. c.r.angus{at}

Concern should be focused on older drinkers

“Our message is simple: young people should not drink, but older people may benefit from drinking small amounts,”1 was the eye catching conclusion of a recent study from the Global Burden of Disease project.2 These results seem to have important implications for clinical practice: should we be advocating abstention in the under 40s while encouraging older teetotallers to take up drinking for health reasons?

The study estimated how the risks of harm, measured in disability adjusted life years, vary with alcohol consumption, age, sex, and country and estimated the level of alcohol consumption at which drinkers face the same risks as non-drinkers. The authors find that, in many parts of the world, including western Europe, younger drinkers face increased risks of harm with any alcohol consumption. In contrast, older drinkers see their risks of harm fall at low levels of drinking before rising at higher levels …

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