Refusing To Accept Drinking’s Benefit

You could fill a fair-sized tavern with all the studies that document the salubrious effects of moderate drinking. But consumers have managed not to get the message, as a Gallup poll makes clear. Women are especially resistant to the idea that a drink a day can help stave off heart attacks and other ills (see the chart). If people were this obdurate about any other aspect of personal health, the media would be swimming in public-service messages aimed at changing their behavior. Why do so many people discount the pro-drink evidence? Here’s one guess: When health experts make any mention of moderate drinking’s health benefits, they all but drown it out with dire warnings about the dangers of excessive drinking. One might infer from this that Americans have been on one long bender. In fact, though, the same Gallup polling points to a significant decline in the number of people who say they sometimes drink more than they should. “The percentage saying they sometimes drink too much averaged 30 percent between 1985 and 1994, but has averaged 23 percent since.” There has been a particularly steep drop among 18-29-year-olds, from 46 percent in 1992-94 to 30 percent in 2004-05. (Gallup used two-year averages for the survey’s demographic breakdowns in order to increase sample size and reduce possible error.)