People with current drinking problems and poor impulse control are more likely to die in the next 15 years, a new study has revealed.
However, they could prevent it with a little help from their friends as the study also found that a strong social support network buffers the toxic effects of impulsivity.
Alcohol misuse is known to increase the risk of premature death, and impulsivity - excessive risk-taking, disregard of consequences and poor self-control - has been shown to affect longevity regardless of drinking habits.
To see whether impulsivity posed a risk for alcohol abusers, the researchers tested 515 people when they first sought help for drinking problems and again one year later, and then the researchers followed them for another 15 years. During this period, 93 individuals died.
Those who had scored high on a measure of impulsivity a year after seeking help for their drinking problems were more likely to die in the years following, and this held true even after researchers took factors like drinking severity and existing physical health problems into account.
Why impulsivity compounds the risk of alcohol misuse was not clear from the study, said lead author Daniel Blonigen, Ph.D., a research health science specialist at the Centre for Health Care Evaluation of the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Medical Centre.
On the positive side, the study found that individuals who reported strong supportive relationships with peers and friends to be somewhat protected from the consequences of impulsivity: They were less likely to die than those who lacked that resource.
The study appeared in the November issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.