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Sobering new study says that those under age 40 shouldn't drink alcohol at all

A new study shares surprising recommendations for people under age 40. 

The study is essentially encouraging young people to put down that gorgeous summer cocktail or delicious beer right this minute. They shouldn't drink alcohol at all.

People under 40 suffer significant health risks from drinking, according to the research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle. 

The research was published on Thursday in The Lancet, a British medical journal. 

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The health risks associated with imbibing include auto accidents, injury and even murder, according to the study.

Also, those under age 40 receive no health benefits at all from drinking alcohol, the study found.

People 40 or older may benefit from a limited consumption of alcohol — a glass of red wine occasionally, for example — as long as they have no underlying health risks.

The benefits of small amounts of alcohol include potentially reducing the risk of developing heart disease, ischemic stroke and/or diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic's website. (None of these outcomes are guaranteed with moderate drinking.)

This new study, which comes from the authors of the Global Burden of Diseases project based at the University of Washington in Seattle, analyzed the drinking habits of people in 204 countries and territories. The number of people consuming harmful amounts of alcohol increased to 1.34 billion in 2020, it found.

Nearly 77% of these people were male — with almost 60% of the harmful consumption happening among individuals between 15 and 39 years old.

Fox News Digital reached out to Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou, senior author of the study and professor of health metrics sciences at University of Washington, and was directed by the IHME to the press release on its website.

The release says, in part: "Our message is simple: Young people should not drink, but older people may benefit from drinking small amounts."

"While it may not be realistic to think that young people will abstain from drinking," the statement continues, "we do think it's important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health."

The study examined the risk of alcohol consumption on 22 health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

For the purposes of the new study, one drink of alcohol was defined as 10 grams of pure alcohol — meaning a small 3.4-fluid ounce (100 milliliters) glass of red wine, a 12-fluid ounce (355 milliliters) standard can or bottle of beer (3.5% alcohol) or a one fluid ounce shot of spirits (30 milliliters) that is 40% alcohol by volume.

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"We provide clear evidence that the level of alcohol consumption that minimizes health loss varies significantly across populations and remains zero or very close to zero for several population groups, particularly young adults," the study said.

"At the same time, small amounts of alcohol consumption are associated with improved health outcomes in populations that predominantly face a high burden of cardiovascular diseases, particularly older adults in many world regions," it continued.

"Given these findings, we recommend a modification of existing policy guidelines to focus on emphasizing differential optimal consumption levels by age, rather than the current practice of recommending different consumption levels by sex." 

There has been a focus in the past on studying alcohol consumption in relation to gender — such as a report almost a decade ago entitled, "Closing the Gender Gap: The Case for Gender-Specific Alcohol Research," published in the Journal of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in 2013.

This new study focused instead on several factors: global region, sex, age and calendar year.

The study "highlights present a serious recommendation for those 40 and younger, and the authors call for alcohol consumption guidelines to be revised to emphasize consumption levels by age," according to the University of Washington's IHME website.

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The study is "stressing that the level of alcohol consumption recommended by many existing guidelines is too high for young people in all regions."

It also calls for "policies that target males under 40, who are most likely to use alcohol harmfully."

"This study highlights the importance of prioritizing interventions targeted at minimizing alcohol consumption among young adults," the study also noted.

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