Authors of the Our Invisible Addicts report from the RCP said that benefits were disproportionately emphasised when researchers compared groups of moderate drinkers with groups of heavy drinkers.
Health benefits ‘unproven’
It read: “Interpreting causality between moderate drinking in later life and benefits to health (particularly to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular function) remain unproven. It is likely that the proposed health benefits or lack of harm from alcohol have been overstated when comparing groups heavy drinkers to those with who drink moderately or who are abstinent.”
The report also said that many older people reduce alcohol consumption over their life time if their health declines, which creates a group of “more unhealthy non-drinkers or moderate drinkers” which can skew the results.
It said: “There may also be under-reporting of alcohol consumption in those in groups who may be drinking heavily. Deaths from alcohol misuse may also lead to those who have survived their alcohol misuse being classified as healthy, when in fact they do not form a nationally representative sample of drinkers.”
Drinkers' Voice rejects findings
However, the findings have been roundly rejected by Drinkers' Voice – the independent network of moderate drinkers.
The group’s director Dr Richard Harding said: “We welcome the Royal College of Psychiatrists report on substance misuse, but reject the view that the health benefits of moderate drinking have been overstated.
“There are many studies on the effect of alcohol consumption on cognitive function, dementia and Alzheimer's disease published over the past 20 years, and the broad conclusion is inescapable – that moderate, regular alcohol consumption offers a significant degree of protection for both men and women compared to those who abstain.”
Drinkers' Voice is an independent network of moderate drinkers that believes stories surrounding alcohol are often disproportionately negative, and fail to acknowledge the health benefits of moderate drinking as part of a healthy lifestyle.