A drink a day does wonders for older women, says a study by researchers at the University of Newcastle.
The study conducted at the University's Priority Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute's (HMRI) Public Health Programme, found that consuming alcohol in moderate amounts may be of benefit to the health of older women.
As a part of the study, a national survey of 12,432 older women using data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health researchers was conducted. The women were aged 70 to 75 years when the study began.
The National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines recommend that women drink no more than two standard drinks a day on average, no more than four standard drinks on any one day and have one or two alcohol-free days a week.
Over the course of six years, the volunteers provided information on alcohol consumption and their health by completing questionnaires.
Based on these questionnaires, the researchers found that women who consumed alcohol in moderate amounts tended to have higher survival rates.
"The study was undertaken to determine whether women who drank alcohol according to Australian recommendations could continue doing so from age 70 years and beyond," Centre Director, Professor Julie Byles, said.
"Our data indicates that these guidelines can safely apply to these women at older ages. Indeed non drinkers and women who rarely drink had a significantly higher risk of dying than women who consumed a low intake of alcohol,"
"The health benefits that moderate alcohol consumption can provide are likely to be multiple. Alcohol use can be associated with psychological and social wellbeing which can be considered important health benefits in their own right.
"The social and pleasurable benefits of drinking, as well as the improved appetite and nutrition that may accompany modest alcohol intake, could also play a role.
"However, our study was not designed to provide evidence to suggest that non-drinkers should take up alcohol consumption in older age."
Results of the study were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.