New research shows that a glass of wine can take 30 minutes off your life, as a study shows the shocking effects of what many would consider moderate drinking. The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that for every glass of wine that a 40-year-old drinks over the recommended limit, you can see their lifespan shortened by around half an hour. Now, it’s important to remember that the recommended limit is fairly low — lower than what many middle-aged people currently drink. At the upper limit, recommendations say that you should have no more than 5 medium glasses of wine (175 milliliters) or 5 pints a beer a week, which means that even a single drink a day can put you well over the weekly limit

The risks are severe — stroke, heart failure, aneurysms, and death were all linked to increased alcohol consumption. In fact, the results were so extreme that some experts said it was on par with smoking in terms of health risks.  “Above two units a day, the death rates steadily climb,” David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, told the Guardian. “The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years’ lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life. This works out at about an hour per day. So it’s as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette.” Which means that your average glass of wine is nearly the equivalent of two cigarettes. And yet many people would roll their eyes or judge an older smoker, but think nothing of ordering their second pinot grigio of the evening.


Smoking has been so villainized in our culture for such a long period — and alcohol consumption has been normalized to the point of a growing binge drinking problem, especially in the UK. Despite stark results like these, it’s hard to imagine that alcohol will ever reach the taboo of cigarettes. But it’s definitely a wake-up call to many who would never have thought of their drinking as a problem. Confusion around units and a lack of awareness about how much alcohol a person is actually consuming further muddies the waters. Many people equate one unit to one drink, which isn’t the case, or don’t realize that three large glasses of wine at a bar is the equivalent of an entire bottle. While drinking in moderation can be a healthy and safe pastime, research like this shows that we need more awareness of the risks of drinking — but also more education about what people are already consuming. After all, it’s taking years off of their lifespan.