One drink a day could shorten your life by up to six months, study finds

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Just one alcoholic drink a day could reduce your life expectancy by six months, a major international study has found.

Scientists analysed nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries, and calculated how much their life would be reduced if they drank the same amount for the rest of their lives from the age of 40. None of the drinkers had a history of cardiovascular conditions.

The study, published in the Lancet journal, found that consuming 5-10 drinks a week is likely to shorten someone’s life by up to six months, while the risk increased for those who consumed more alcohol.

Those consuming 10-15 drinks a week could expect to lose one to two years of their life, while those consuming 18 or more were likely to die four or five years earlier.

The research found a surge in the risk of various conditions for every 12.5 units a week (the equivalent of five pints of beer) consumed. The risk of developing fatal hypertensive disease was the highest, at 24 percent. The risk of a stroke was 14 percent higher; heart failure 9 percent, and the risk of a fatal aortic aneurysm rose by 15 percent.

Beer drinking at the Oktoberfest Festival, September, 2014. (Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

The scientists found that 12.5 units a week was the upper safe limit before a heightened risk of premature death, but they said that drinking in any quantities increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular illnesses.

Although the study did find that drinking alcohol was associated with a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks, experts said that “on balance,” drinking alcohol has no health benefits.

“Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and stroke,” said Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, who was not involved in the research, in comments reported by the BBC.

“This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true,” Chico said.

The lead author of the study, Dr Angela Wood, from the University of Cambridge, said: “The key message of this research is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions.”