Drinking 200 to 350 grams was associated with a one- to two-year decline in life expectancy, and drinking more than 350 grams corresponded to a four- to five-year drop, on average.
Scientists analysed almost 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries, and calculated how much their life would be reduced if they drank the same amount for the rest of their lives from the age of 40.
Five standard 175ml glasses of wine or five pints a week is the upper safe limit - about 100g of alcohol, or 12.5 units in total. (The U.S. classifies "moderate intake" as one daily drink for women and two for men; the limit in Italy and Spain, meanwhile, is nearly 50 percent higher, and England advises both sexes not to exceed five drinks per week.) And this discrepancy in advice is exactly what researchers wanted to fix, eventually settling on their 100-gram weekly total. Scientists found a 40-year-old exceeding the benchmark of 100g of pure alcohol, around five drinks a week, had their life expectancy shortened by six months. The findings from the study are in line with United Kingdom guidance which was recently lowered to 6 glasses a week for men and women.
Just think how easy it is to sink six pints of nice, cold lager on a hot summer's day, or to work your way through a few glasses of wine after a long day.
The team also explored links between how much alcohol people consumed and their risk of different types of cardiovascular disease.
The more people drank, the higher the risk of a range of life threatening illnesses, including stroke and heart failure. That's because earlier studies found women are hit by the effects of alcohol at lower amounts than men for several reasons, including women weigh less than men on average and blood alcohol concentrations rise faster.
The study "is a serious wake-up call for many countries", Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation said in a statement.
"This study completely overlooks the well-documented health benefits light to moderate enjoyment of alcohol brings", said James Calder, head of communications for the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA). So the researchers, led by Cambridge University's Dr. Angela Wood, used only information about people who were current drinkers "because ex-drinkers include people who might have abstained from alcohol owing to poor health itself, as well as those who have changed their habits to achieve a healthier lifestyle", they wrote.
These sobering findings come from a massive new study published this week in The Lancet medical journal.
The study included almost 600,000 participants from across the globe, a team of worldwide researchers analysed data taken from 83 studies in 19 high-income countries.
Co-author, Professor Naveed Sattar of the University of Glasgow, said: "This study provides clear evidence to support lowering the recommended limits of alcohol consumption in many countries around the world".
However other countries reportedly still have much higher limits than the UK.