AIM: To test the association of alcohol consumption with total and cause-specific mortality risk.
DESIGN: Prospective observational multi-centre population-based study.
SETTING: Sixteen cohorts (15 from Europe) in the MOnica Risk, Genetics, Archiving and Monograph (MORGAM) Project.
PARTICIPANTS: A total of 142 960 individuals (mean age 50 ± 13 years, 53.9% men).
MEASUREMENTS: Average alcohol intake by food frequency questionnaire, total and cause-specific mortality.
FINDINGS: In comparison with life-time abstainers, consumption of alcohol less than 10 g/day was associated with an average 11% [95% confidence interval (CI) = 7-14%] reduction in the risk of total mortality, while intake > 20 g/day was associated with a 13% (95% CI = 7-20%) increase in the risk of total mortality. Comparable findings were observed for cardiovascular (CV) deaths. With regard to cancer, drinking up to 10 g/day was not associated with either mortality risk reduction or increase, while alcohol intake > 20 g/day was associated with a 22% (95% CI = 10-35%) increased risk of mortality. The association of alcohol with fatal outcomes was similar in men and women, differed somewhat between countries and was more apparent in individuals preferring wine, suggesting that benefits may not be due to ethanol but other ingredients. Mediation analysis showed that high-density lipoprotein cholesterol explained 2.9 and 18.7% of the association between low alcohol intake and total as well as CV mortality, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: In comparison with life-time abstainers, consuming less than one drink per day (nadir at 5 g/day) was associated with a reduced risk of total, cardiovascular and other causes mortality, except cancer. Intake of more than two drinks per day was associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular and especially cancer mortality.