Controlling only for age and gender, compared to moderate drinkers, abstainers had a more than 2 times increased mortality risk, heavy drinkers had 70% increased risk, and light drinkers had 23% increased risk.
The usual objection to this finding is that some teetotallers are ex-alcoholics or sickly and therefore more likely to die anyway. This is the 'Sick Quitter Hypothesis' that Ben Goldacre mentions in Bad Science. Since he wrote that book, several studies have tested the hypothesis by excluding former drinkers and found that moderate drinkers still live longer. The authors of this new study do the same...
A model controlling for former problem drinking status, existing health problems, and key sociodemographic and social-behavioral factors, as well as for age and gender, substantially reduced the mortality effect for abstainers compared to moderate drinkers. However, even after adjusting for all covariates, abstainers and heavy drinkers continued to show increased mortality risks of 51 and 45%, respectively, compared to moderate drinkers.
Surely it is now time for the 'evidence-based' public health lobby to campaign for cheaper alcohol? How many more people are they prepared to see die?