Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the association of alcohol consumption and cardiovascular mortality in the U.S. population.
Background: Alcohol consumption has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in cohort studies, but this association has not been prospectively examined in large, detailed, representative samples of the U.S. population.
Methods: We analyzed 9 iterations of the National Health Interview Survey, an annual survey of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults between 1987 and 2000. Exposures of interest included usual volume, frequency, and quantity of alcohol consumption and binge drinking. Mortality was ascertained through linkage to the National Death Index through 2002. Relative risks were derived from random-effects meta-analyses of weighted, multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios for cardiovascular mortality from individual survey administrations.
Results: Light and moderate volumes of alcohol consumption were inversely associated with cardiovascular mortality. Compared with lifetime abstainers, summary relative risks were 0.95 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.88 to 1.02) among lifetime infrequent drinkers, 1.02 (95% CI: 0.94 to 1.11) among former drinkers, 0.69 (95% CI: 0.59 to 0.82) among light drinkers, 0.62 (95% CI: 0.50 to 0.77) among moderate drinkers, and 0.95 (95% CI: 0.82 to 1.10) among heavy drinkers. The magnitude of lower risk was similar in subgroups of sex, age, or baseline health status. There was no simple relation of drinking pattern with risk, but risk was consistently higher among those who consumed >or=3 compared with 2 drinks/drinking day.
Conclusions: In 9 nationally representative samples of U.S. adults, light and moderate alcohol consumption were inversely associated with CVD mortality, even when compared with lifetime abstainers, but consumption above recommended limits was not.