British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

Associations between frequency of tea consumption and health and mortality: evidence from old Chinese

Li Qiua1, Jessica Sauttera2a3 and Danan Gua4 c1

a1 Department of Neurobiology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27710, USA

a2 Department of Internal Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27708, USA

a3 Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, NC 27708, USA

a4 Department of Medicine, Duke University, 200 Trent Dr Busse BLDG RM 1506, Durham, NC 27710, USA


Tea consumption may be associated with reduced risk of morbidity and mortality; however, this association is not conclusive and has rarely been investigated among very old adults. The present study examines how self-reported frequency of tea consumption in daily life is associated with health and mortality among very old adults in China. The data are from a national longitudinal data set that included 32 606 individuals (13 429 men and 19 177 women) aged 65 years and older: 11 807 respondents aged 65 to 84 years and 20 799 respondents aged 85 years and older. A total of four measurements between 1998 and 2005 resulted in 51 668 observations. Hazard regressions showed that men who drink tea almost every day have a 10–20 % lower risk of death compared to their counterparts who seldom drink tea, after adjusting for numerous confounders including baseline health. This relationship was stronger in younger male elders aged 65 to 84 years than in the oldest-old men aged 85 years and older. However, frequency of tea consumption was not significantly associated with mortality in women. Our analyses further show that high frequency of tea consumption is significantly associated with reduced OR of disability in activities of daily living, cognitive impairment, self-rated poor health, cumulative health deficits and CVD in both young elders and the oldest-old, and in both men and women. These results suggest that the health benefit of drinking tea is universal. We conclude that frequent tea consumption probably helps one achieve healthy longevity and that men benefit more from such lifestyles.

(Received July 14 2011)

(Revised November 16 2011)

(Accepted November 28 2011)

(Online publication January 16 2012)

Key Words:

  • Tea consumption;
  • China;
  • Healthy longevity;
  • Mortality;
  • Sex differentials;
  • Older adults;
  • Oldest-old


c1 Corresponding author: D. Gu, email


  Abbreviations: ADL, activities of daily living; CLHLS, Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey; DI, deficit index; MMSE, Mini-Mental State Examination; SES, socio-economic status