Nondrinkers May Have Higher Mortality Risk Than Light Drinkers, but Reasons for Abstaining Make a Big Difference. In brief, the study found that the reasons for abstaining from alcohol made a big difference to the mortality rate. Those who abstained for religious reasons were found to have the same mortality rate as light drinkers; those who abstained for health reasons or because they were alcoholics had worse.
Abstainers who chose not to drink for a cluster of reasons that included religious or moral motivations, being brought up not to drink, responsibilities to their family, as well as not liking the taste, had similar mortality risks over the follow-up period to light drinkers.
“So this idea that nondrinkers always have higher mortality than light drinkers isn’t true,” Rogers said. “You can find some groups of nondrinkers who have similar mortality risks to light drinkers.”
The other subgroup of abstainers — whose largest reason for not drinking appeared to be a dislike of the taste and to a lesser degree family responsibilities, religious or moral motivations or upbringing — had a 17 percent higher mortality risk over the follow-up period compared with light drinkers.
The scientists also found that infrequent drinkers generally had a slightly higher mortality risk than light drinkers. Former drinkers, however, had the highest mortality risk of all nondrinkers. Former drinkers whose cluster of reasons for not drinking now included being an alcoholic and problems with drinking, for example, had a 38 percent higher mortality risk than light drinkers over the follow-up period.