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Age-Dependent Risk Aversion: Re-evaluating Fiscal Policy Impacts of Population Ageing

Phitawat Poonpolkul

Abstract: Background: Results of research into the effects of alcohol drinking on population health are inconsistent. Some studies suggest that light to moderate alcohol consump- tion can have a protective effect on morbidity and mortality. But others challenge this view and claim that alcohol use could lead to health loss regardless of the amount. We contribute evidence to this debate by investigating the association between alcohol drinking and all-cause mortality among older adults in China.

Methods: We use nationally representative samples from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey and the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study. Cox regressions compare ever drinkers who had been exposed to alcohol at some time and lifelong abstainers. We then subdivide ever drinkers into former drinkers who had stopped drinking and current drinkers who were still consuming alcohol. Cox results are supplemented with the interpolated Markov chain approach to calculate total and disability-free life expectancy.

Results: Among older males, ever drinkers seemed to have similar mortality risks to lifelong abstainers. Compared to abstinence, mortality was elevated for former male drinkers, although the effects were generally insignificant. Current male drinkers aged between 65 and 85 had a significantly lower risk of death. With the adjustment for so- cioeconomic status, an average current male drinker at age 65 could expect to live 1.65 years longer in total and 1.84 years longer without disability than lifelong abstainers. However, we can’t reliably estimate alcohol effects on older Chinese females.

Conclusions: Since there is little doubt that heavy drinking is detrimental to health, our results provide evidence supporting an association between light to moderate alcohol consumption and reduced mortality. The recommendation of zero alcohol consump- tion might not be well-justified in the contemporary Chinese context. The importance of alcohol intake in evaluating population health should be taken into account when predicting future health care burdens.

Keywords: Alcohol drinking; All-cause mortality; IMaCh; Life expectancy


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