For example, if a person drank over 10 drinks per week, they would live two years less, and 18 drinks per week can shorten the life with 4-5 years.
The study's researchers also found that drinking increased the risk of cardiovascular illness, with every 12.5 units over the guidelines raising the risk of a stroke by 14 percent, fatal hypertensive disease by 24 percent, heart failure by nine percent and fatal aortic aneurysm by 15 percent.
The Australian guidelines published in 2009 are nearly a decade old and recommend "healthy men and women" drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
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.
An analysis of almost 600,000 people found those drinking more than 100g of alcohol every week - around five 175ml glasses of wine or pints of beer - were at an increased risk of early death. The researchers estimated that reducing long-term drinking from the two-drink a day limit suggested by the USA government, to less than one a day, was associated with a one- to two-year boost in life expectancy in men.
The US government now recommends no more than seven drinks a week for women, but twice that amount for men. This equates to around six pints of beer or six glasses of wine a week.
Moderate alcohol consumption also poses health risks, according to a new worldwide study.
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"Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and strokes". "By contrast, alcohol consumption was associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks".
Estimated future years of life lost by extent of reported baseline alcohol consumption compared with those who reported consuming 0-≤100 g per week.
A 40-year-old drinking half a dozen 6 ounce glasses of wine a week is considered a safe limit, researchers said.
"This is a serious wakeup call for many countries", said Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation charity, which helped fund the study, in a statement.
"Secondly, there has been a fiction, used by the alcohol industry to maintain nearly unrestrained advertising for its products, that small quantities of alcohol are beneficial, even healthy (reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease)".
David Jernigan, an alcohol researcher at Johns Hopkins University, told the Associated Press, "if you're really concerned about your longevity, don't have more than one drink a day". The CDC says more than 38 million American adults admit to binge-drinking once a week and guzzle an average of eight drinks per spree. The researchers collected 83 individual studies from 1964 up to 2010, including one from Erasmus MC. They also noted that the study was not able to account for people who reduced their alcohol consumption due to health complications.
But there is a benefit to drinking alcohol.