"Scientists" have been sending out some pretty mixed messages when it comes to drinking delicious, delicious alcohol. Everyone's drinking too much, but some of us aren't drinking enough, and either way we're all either going to live forever or die immediately of booze-induced cancer. This week, one addiction and public health specialist penned a diatribe once again touting the health benefits of alcohol, claiming that science proves that teetotalers have shorter lifespans than drinkers. We'll take it!

According to addiction psychologist Stanton Peele, studies show that alcohol offers all sorts of health benefits, including increased heart health advantages. In fact, Peele argues, abstaining from alcohol is bad for your heart—he points to several studies that correlate moderate alcohol consumption with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, increased cognitive function and longevity. In fact, Peele argues that the "U.S. public health establishment" has been hiding all these booze benefits from us, thanks to what it perceives as a "major health problem of alcoholism" countrywide:

Epidemiological study after study (that is, research tracing drinkers, their consumption, and their life outcomes) produces consistent findings—there are now hundreds of such studies. But whenever any sort of research can be teased out to suggest drinking is bad for you, it will be put on full display to confuse the picture.

Thus, when people with a gene associated with less alcohol consumption (including less binge drinking), as well as other effects, were found to have better outcomes, this highly indirect evidence—as opposed to research measuring actual drinking and heart disease—was cited to prove “alcohol does not benefit the heart.”

Given the multitude of studies of the effects of alcohol on mortality (since heart disease is the leading killer of men and women, drinking reduces overall mortality significantly), meta-analyses combining the results of the best-designed such studies can be generated. In 2006, the Archives of Internal Medicine, an American Medical Association journal, published an analysis based on 34 well-designed prospective studies—that is, research which follows subjects for years, even decades. This meta-analysis, incorporating a million subjects, found that “1 to 2 drinks per day for women and 2 to 4 drinks per day for men are inversely associated with total mortality.”

The more alcohol a society consumes, the fewer alcohol-related problems and alcohol-related deaths (including cirrhosis) it has.
So the more you drink—up to two drinks a day for woman, and four for men—the less likely you are to die. You may have heard that before, and you may have heard it doubted. But the consensus of the science is overwhelming: It is true.

Of course, Peele has received plenty of criticism for his work on addiction; he controversially claims that alcoholism is a behavioral problem and not a disease, a theory groups like Alcohol Anonymous have been trying to combat for years. But he's not the only researcher who's touted alcohol's health benefits in moderation, and its social benefits even help us from getting too lonely. So, moderate drinkers, feel free to continue with your Friday whiskey habit, provided you do not operate any heavy machinery or motor vehicles or online shopping websites while under the influence.