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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Drinkers 'feel healthier' than teetotallers
Drinkers are less likely to report ill health than abstainers
Drinkers are less likely to report ill health than abstainers
People who drink alcohol feel healthier than those who do not, scientists have found.

A study of 19,500 adults across Spain also found the higher the amount consumed, the healthier people felt.

They found moderate beer and spirits drinkers were as "healthy" as those who drank small amounts of wine - which for some time has been thought to have health benefits.

A spokeswoman for Alcohol Concern agreed there were benefits from moderate drinking but said heavy drinking had severe effects on health.

While a small amount of alcohol can benefit cardiovascular health, large amounts can cause conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver.

Perceptions

The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, asked people how much they drank, what they drank, and how they perceived their health.

The researchers also looked at age, sex, employment, physical activity, smoking and socio-economic status.


Although those participants who are drinking heavily may not be suffering from ill health at this stage, the health effects of alcohol are long term, and could cause problems in the future

Alcohol Concern
A third of people quizzed thought their health was not as good as it should be.

Just under 57% said they drank alcohol regularly - most having between one and four drinks a day.

People who earnt more, those who were working, smokers and people with physically demanding jobs tended to drink more.

The study found people who had any amount of alcohol had a lower frequency of ill health than those who abstained.

People under 45 who said they preferred wine reported ill health less frequently than people of the same age who drank other types of alcohol.

But the pattern was reversed in over 45s.

Lifestyle

The doctors, led by Dr Fernando Rodrigues-Artalego of the Department of Preventative Medicine and Public Health at Autonoma University in Madrid, said their findings should not be used to promote "even the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages."

UK recommended daily limits
Men - no more than 4 units
Women - no more than three

The Spanish finding is in direct contradiction to work carried out in Nordic countries which found alcohol consumption was linked with poorer health.

But the researchers say this may be because in Spain is linked with mealtimes, which is not the case in Nordic countries.

A spokeswoman for Alcohol Concern said: "This research is interesting, but several other similar surveys would have to be carried out before views on the health effects of alcohol could be reviewed.

"Also, although those participants who are drinking heavily may not be suffering from ill health at this stage, the health effects of alcohol are long term, and could cause problems in the future.

"Those consuming high levels of alcohol may also be defensive about their alcohol consumption and underplay the problems they are experiencing."

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