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Original Investigation
August 13/27, 2001

Better Psychological Functioning and Higher Social Status May Largely Explain the Apparent Health Benefits of Wine: A Study of Wine and Beer Drinking in Young Danish Adults

Author Affiliations

From the Danish Epidemiology Science Center, Institute of Preventive Medicine (Drs Mortensen, Jensen, and Reinisch) and the Department of Health Psychology, Institute of Public Health (Drs Mortensen and Jensen), University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; and The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University, Bloomington (Drs Sanders and Reinisch).

Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(15):1844-1848. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.15.1844

Background  Findings from a recent series of Danish studies suggest that moderate wine drinkers are healthier than those who drink other alcoholic beverages or those who abstain.

Objective  To identify possible explanatory factors associated with the health benefits of wine consumption through the examination of a wide spectrum of social, cognitive, and personality characteristics related to both beverage choice and health in young Danish adults.

Subjects and Methods  Descriptive cross-sectional study of characteristics associated with beverage choice in a sample of 363 men and 330 women between the ages of 29 and 34 years, selected from the Copenhagen Perinatal Cohort on the basis of perinatal records.

Main Outcome Measures  Socioeconomic status, education, IQ, personality, psychiatric symptoms, and health-related behaviors, including alcohol consumption, were analyzed. The outcome variables were subjected to linear and logistic regression analyses with 2 factors (beer and wine), each with 2 levels (drinking or not drinking a certain beverage type).

Results  Wine drinking was significantly associated with higher IQ, higher parental educational level, and higher socioeconomic status. Beer drinking was significantly associated with lower scores on the same variables. On scales concerning personality, psychiatric symptoms, and health-related behaviors, wine drinking was associated with optimal functioning and beer drinking with suboptimal functioning.

Conclusions  Our data demonstrate that wine drinking is a general indicator of optimal social, cognitive, and personality development in Denmark. Similar social, cognitive, and personality factors have also been associated with better health in many populations. Consequently, the association between drinking habits and social and psychological characteristics, in large part, may explain the apparent health benefits of wine.