Monday, March 23, 2009

drink with a friend

When I was growing up in California, there were periodic droughts that resulted in mandates to cut down on water use, and one of my favorite pieces of advice was to shower with one or more friends. Now it turns out that drinking with friends has measurable health benefits. It seems obvious that drinking alone is not necessarily a good thing, but a new study from Japan provides actual data that social drinking--in moderation--is healthful. (Whether it also leads to communal bathing remains a personal choice.)
The data comes from a large prospective public health study in Japan involving more than 19,000 subjects evaluated for the incidence of stroke and heart disease relative to drinking habits. As one would expect, light-to-moderate drinkers had fewer episodes (this has been reported in studies too numerous to list) and heavy drinkers had more. In epidemiology this is known as a J-shaped curve, about which more in my book. What was unique about this study was the use of a measure called the "social support score" which looks at patterns of social behavior. When this was applied as a filter (a tool known as stratification) the risk of stroke was significantly lower among social drinkers.
There are a number of ways this can be interpreted. The most likely one is that it is simply a "marker" for healthy behaviors and a healthful drinking habit. But from an anti-aging point of view, it is an important finding, as it reinforces the well-known phenomenon of people living longer when they are connected and engaged in their communities. This study provides a link between the two.
I say cheers to that. Join me for a glass of wine?

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