Background: Harms of excessive alcohol consumption are obvious, but moderate wine consumption is frequently advocated for prevention of cardiovascular diseases. We compared 29-year mortality and quality of life in old age by alcoholic beverage preference (beer, wine, or spirits) in a cohort of men whose socioeconomic status was similar in their adult life.
Methods: In 1974, cardiovascular risk factors and beverage preference were assessed in 2468 businessmen and executives aged 40-55 years. Of them, 131 did not use alcohol, 455 did not report a single preference, and 694, 251, and 937 preferred beer, wine, and spirits, respectively. Quality of life with a RAND-36 Short Form (SF)-36 instrument was surveyed in 2000 in survivors. Mortality was retrieved from registers during the 29-year follow-up.
Results: Alcoholic beverage preference tracked well during the follow-up. Total alcohol consumption was not significantly different between preference groups. Men with wine preference had the lowest total mortality due to lower cardiovascular mortality. With the spirits group as the reference category and age, cardiovascular risk factors, and total alcohol consumption as covariates, wine drinkers had a 34% lower total mortality (relative risk 0.66; 95% confidence interval, 0.45-0.98); relative risk for beer preferers was 0.91 (95% confidence interval, 0.68-1.14). In 2000, wine preferers had the highest scores in all RAND-36 scales; general health (p =.007) and mental health (p =.01) were also significantly different.
Conclusion: In this male cohort from the highest social class, wine preference was associated with lower mortality and better quality of life in old age. Mortality advantage was independent of overall alcohol consumption and cardiovascular risk factors, but contributing personal characteristics or early life differences cannot be excluded.