Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Wine appreciation is an icon of “the good life,” but can it really be true that something as simple as a glass of wine with dinner measurably improves quality of life? There’s good evidence that it does. Quality of life (QoL) may seem a subjective concept, impossible to quantify, as irreproducible as numerical wine scores, but QoL has become a vital concept in clinical research. Everything from cancer treatments to plastic surgery can be appraised in terms of impact on quality of life. Wine drinking is no different.
The concept first appeared in the medical literature in the 1970’s, as medical and surgical treatments advanced in terms of their ability to save lives, but sometimes at the expense of significant side effects. In a similar vein, scholarly investigations about wine consumption tended to focus on its detrimental effects until recently. Only when it became apparent that wine drinkers actually lived longer and enjoyed better health outcomes overall did it occur to look at QoL specifically. Health status is of course an aspect of QoL, but it is the larger sense of well-being, social interactions, and a sense of meaning and fulfillment that define QoL. Validated and reproducible tools for measuring QoL have been developed to facilitate this type of research.
For example, a 2007 long-term study from Finland tracked a group of men after identifying their preference for wine, beer, spirits, or no alcohol. After 29 years, there was a clear advantage to wine: significantly lower mortality (mostly due to better heart health) and high QoL scores. All groups tended to maintain their preferences over time, and overall alcohol consumption was similar.
It holds true even in cases of chronic heart failure, according to a 2015 study from Italy. As one would expect from Italian subjects, more than half consumed at least a glass of wine per day. They found that “patients with more frequent wine consumption had a significantly better perception of health status, less frequent symptoms of depression, and lower plasma levels of biomarkers of vascular inflammation.”
Among the major components of quality of life is marital harmony. In younger couples, alcohol consumption has a significant impact (positive or negative), but in older couples it becomes even more important. A 2016 study from the University of Michigan found that concordance of drinking preferences was more important than the amount of alcohol consumed for long term marital bliss. Drinkers of any type did better over time than nondrinkers, as long as both spouses had similar habits.
So here’s to happiness and health, wine not whining!
 Alcoholic beverage preference, 29-year mortality, and quality of life in men in old age. Strandberg TE1, Strandberg AY, Salomaa VV, Pitkälä K, Tilvis RS, Miettinen TA. Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2007 Feb;62(2):213-8.
 Regular wine consumption in chronic heart failure: impact on outcomes, quality of life, and circulating biomarkers. Cosmi F, Di Giulio P, Masson S, Finzi A, Marfisi RM, Cosmi D, Scarano M, Tognoni G, Maggioni AP, Porcu M, Boni S, Cutrupi G, Tavazzi L, Latini R; GISSI-HF Investigators. Circ Heart Fail. 2015 May;8(3):428-37.
 Drinking Patterns Among Older Couples: Longitudinal Associations With Negative Marital Quality.
Birditt KS1, Cranford JA2, Manalel JA3, Antonucci TC3.J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2016 Jun 27.