More Evidence that Alcoholic Drinks Are Good for You

Here’s to the man who drinks water pure and goes to bed quite sober.
Here’s to the man who drinks water pure and goes to bed quite sober.
He falls as the leaves do fall, falls as the leaves do fall, falls as the leaves do fall.
He’ll die before October.                                                                                                                                                                                                 –Traditional English drinking song

A deep sense of peace settles over our place each autumn once the last of the apples and grapes are picked, crushed, and pressed and bubbling away in the garage. Making wine or cider requires a lot of labor for a few hours, but the work is pleasant and sociable, and amazingly productive when you consider how long it would take to can or dry all that fruit. With fermentation as with pregnancy, anticipating the outcome lends a quiet excitement to life. The first taste is a celebration, for the product of each pressing is unique and nearly always good, if not great. Like a new lamb, a kitten, or a baby child.

So I always like having scientists confirm that drinking alcoholic beverages is good for us. Carolyn Aldwin and her colleagues at Oregon State University have recently done just that, in reporting results of their eighteen-year study of stress and mortality in middle-aged and older men. The moderate drinkers, the scientists found, lived substantially longer than the teetotalers. What the drinkers drank—wine? beer? cocktails?—apparently wasn’t reported. Maybe the alcohol alone extended their lives, by frequently anesthetizing them against life’s little torments. Maybe the teetotalers shortened their lives by contracting or even skipping the calming ritual involved with having a drink—the sitting at table, the sharing of food, the conversation with friends or family. In any case, says Carolyn Aldwin, “Perhaps trying to keep your major stress events to a minimum, being married, and having a glass of wine every night is the secret to a long life.”

For men, at least. Other studies have found that women are best off without marriage, and that even moderate drinking may increase the risk of female breast cancer. But I trust the wisdom of our ancestors: A little wine or hard cider each day will do you more good than harm. And taking the time to make that wine or cider yourself can only make life sweeter, if not longer.