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Int J Epidemiol. 1988 Jun;17(2):307-16.

Men who do not drink: a report from the British Regional Heart Study.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Epidemiology and General Practice, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London, UK.


Men who do not drink are frequently used as a baseline against which the effects of alcohol consumption are measured. The characteristics of such men have been examined in a large-scale prospective study of cardiovascular disease involving 7735 middle-aged men drawn from general practices in 24 British towns. Non-drinkers include lifelong teetotallers and ex-drinkers, both long-term and recent. Long-term ex-drinkers have many characteristics likely to increase their morbidity and mortality; recent ex-drinkers have similar characteristics but to a less marked degree. Ex-drinkers are older than the other groups and include an increased proportion of unmarried men and men in manual occupations. They have the same high percentage of current cigarette smokers as moderate/heavy drinkers and a prevalence of hypertension and obesity similar to moderate/heavy drinkers and higher than lifelong teetotallers or occasional/light drinkers. Ex-drinkers have the highest percentage of men with multiple doctor-diagnosed disorders. In particular, they have the highest prevalence rates of angina and possible myocardial infarction on standardized questionnaire, of myocardial infarction on electrocardiogram and of recall of a doctor-diagnosis of ischaemic heart disease. They also have high prevalence rates of recall of high blood pressure, peptic ulcer, diabetes, gall bladder disease and bronchitis. They have the highest rates for regular medical treatment and the highest proportion of men who consider their health to be poor. It is abundantly clear that the general category of non-drinkers, which includes a large proportion of ex-drinkers, should not be used as a baseline against which to measure the effects of alcohol consumption. Overall, it would appear that the occasional/light drinking category (less than 15 drinks/week) provides a large and satisfactory baseline group for comparative purposes in the study of cardiovascular and other organic disorders.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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