Good news for women in this research reported in this morning’s SMH

It seems a glass a day can help keep the undertaker away – especially if you are a woman over 70.

An Australian study, published in the Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society, has found that drinking two glasses of alcohol every afternoon can help elderly women live longer and more happily.

The study, by researchers from the University of Newcastle, followed more than 12,400 women over six years and found that those who had a tipple a day reported better physical and mental health and lived longer than those who abstained.

The study’s author, Julie Byles, said yesterday that antioxidants in wine could be responsible for helping women live longer, but for most people a few drinks helped them feel less stressed, improved their mood and gave them a social outlet.

“The health benefits that moderate alcohol consumption can provide are likely to be multiple,” she said. “The social and pleasurable benefits of drinking, as well as the improved appetite and nutrition that may accompany modest alcohol intake, could also play a role.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends no more than two standard drinks a day, but Professor Byles said there had been suggestions that limit should be lower for older people because they had different biological reactions to alcohol. “We found there was no harm in sticking to those guidelines, and in fact, women reported that they felt better.”

But she added: “Quite a few older people don’t drink for medical reasons, so we don’t want them suddenly taking it up against medical advice.”