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Alcoholics vs. Teetotalers: Who Lives Longer?

Alcoholics.  A recent article in Time reports that heavy drinkers live longer than nondrinkers.  Moderate drinkers faired the best.  But the finding that heavy drinkers came in second - above teetotalers - stunned many. 

I don't want to recommend that everyone go out and tie one on, but it's important to look at the factors which might be causing this outcome.  The article cites socialization and depression as possible factors.  Research has shown that nondrinkers tend to be more depressed.  Depressed people tend to more isolated and have a smaller network of people around them.  Moderate drinkers, or social drinkers, may use alcohol as a means to an end - to be more social.  This increased socialization may be the deciding factor. 

I think in this era of "social networking" we may underestimate the importance of face to face interactions.  A friend who immigrated from Cuba expressed great distress at our lack of town squares and the socializing that traditionally occurs around them.  This is one of the things he misses most about Cuban culture.  When I visited Costa Rica I had the opportunity to witness this phenomenon.  Every town had a town square around which social activities were centered.  Every evening after dinner, neighbors would gather.  Older people played checkers, smoked, exchanged gossip or caught up on each other's families.  Younger people flirted and mingled.  Parents rested and chatted.  Children played.  It is a foundation in that society which is totally missing in modern American culture. 

I wonder if it's time to bring it back.

It will be interesting to see future research on this topic.

*It's important to note that the majority of the subjects in this study were men.  From what I've read, even moderate drinking seems to adversely affect women regarding female cancers. 

See the original article, "Why Do Heavy Drinkers Outlive Nondrinkers?" 



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Kellen, I am going to ask you a question that sounds impossible, but I mean it; do you think we could make some initiatives to make this happen? I truly mean it, do you know how many of us around this country, and in particular the town we are in, say that they want this to happen? We are increasingly becoming aware of what an isolated country we have become and many people are starting to want out of this isolated way of living.

I really believe we are approaching a level of awareness where we may be able to achieve a movement to make some of these things happen. With all the creative innovative and thoughtful people we have in this town, I could see an area of town where this exact purpose could possibly be achieved. What do you think?



I think you are right that we are approaching a level of awareness that things need to change, and that we may be able to make these changes. We must be able to make these changes or we do not truly live in a democracy.

I think Americans are starting to realize that buying a bunch of stuff won't make them happy. That despite owning all the latest gadgets, driving the latest car and having the coolest clothes still leaves them empty. I think this is why the depression rate is climbing. I think many are starting to question our consumerist values and look for something more meaningful. I hope they will look to family and community.

Here in Austin we have leash free areas for dogs which become a kind of town square in the evenings for people. Dog owning neighbors gather, let the dogs mingle and run and get to know each other. It's really cool because there is no dress code and the dogs give everyone something in common to talk about. (I've found for a lot of recovering addicts who have trouble socializing sober, getting a dog from the pound provides a wonderful solution. They save a life and give themselves a new one.)

For others, perhaps already existing public parks can be used this same way for other groups. How nice it would be for parents of school age children to go to the park, let their children run and play while also being able to talk to other parents. The children would benefit so much from activity outdoors as opposed to video games or TV and the parents would be able to converse with other adults. I would think single parents who are somewhat isolated would benefit greatly from this.

But what are your ideas?


Well might I just say that when you live with an alcoholic they seem to live forever...

and ever, and ever and ever.


jss- I know it's dark humor but it made me laugh...

Kellen, I agree with you. I think one of the first problems that we might need to help people with is the internal obstacles a lot of us have with finding ways to connect with others. For example, I know there are parent groups in my area of town, but you have to go through interviews to join and the groups are small, and I'm a poor weirdo so I didn't relate much to the older more well off married moms.

Attachment parenting groups are often intimidating because there is a hierarchy of how attachment parent-y you are and you kid is supposed to be perfectly behaved as proof you are a really good attachment parent-y mom (same heirarchy is there in non-attachment parent-y froups as well).

It's very intimidating when you are a lower income person and you do value holistic parenting and many of the same things other moms do, but you just don't have the same resources and people think badly of you for that.

I was at the park a few weeks ago and chatting with a mom who told me the nearby school, "Had lots' of kids from the apartments nearby" and rambled on about how that made the school not good and you know "the kids will come and go from year to year because of THAT population of kids."

I walked home to my apartment with my son feeling more alienated from other moms than ever!


Jss, I have to agree with Rox. Dark and hilarious - and oh so true!


Oh, I am so sorry to hear that. We talk a lot in this country about racism, and sexism and religious discrimination. But I think the biggest discrimination goes unspoken -classism.

And you are not alone. A lot of people in our current culture are having an enormously difficult time connecting with like-minded folks. This is one of the major contributors to our ever increasing rates of depression, anxiety and other mental "disorders" is our isolation from each other and our community.

I wish I had a pat solution, but I don't. Please let me know if you find one!

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