Nondrinker Mortality Risk in the United States
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The literature has shown that people who do not drink alcohol are at greater risk for death than light to moderate drinkers, yet the reasons for this remain largely unexplained. We examine whether variation in people’s reasons for nondrinking explains the increased mortality. Our data come from the 1988–2006 National Health Interview Survey Linked Mortality File (N = 41,076 individuals age 21 and above, of whom 10,421 died over the follow-up period). The results indicate that nondrinkers include several different groups that have unique mortality risks. Among abstainers and light drinkers the risk of mortality is the same as light drinkers for a subgroup who report that they do not drink because of their family upbringing, and moral/religious reasons. In contrast, the risk of mortality is higher than light drinkers for former drinkers who cite health problems or who report problematic drinking behaviors. Our findings address a notable gap in the literature and may inform social policies to reduce or prevent alcohol abuse, increase health, and lengthen life.
KeywordsAlcohol Nondrinkers Abstainers Infrequent drinkers Mortality Survival NHIS
We thank the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD-funded University of Colorado Population Center (grant R24 HD066613) for administrative and computing support; the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) for collecting the data and making the linked files available to the research public; and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. Earlier versions of this manuscript were presented at the 2012 Population Association of America annual meetings in San Francisco, California, May 3–5, and to the Rice University Department of Sociology and Kinder Institute for Urban Research, and the University of Houston Center for Drug and Social Policy Research, September 21, 2011. The content of this manuscript is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH, NICHD, or NCHS.
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