Aims: To compare the effect of alcohol intake on 10-year mortality for men and women over the age of 65 years. Design, setting and participants: Two prospective cohorts of community-dwelling men aged 65–79 years at baseline in 1996 (n=11 727) and women aged 70–75 years in 1996 (n=12 432). Measurements: Alcohol was assessed according to frequency of use (number of days alcohol was consumed per week) and quantity consumed per day. Cox proportional hazards models were compared for men and women for all-cause and cause-specific mortality. Findings: Compared with older adults who did not consume alcohol every week, the risk of all-cause mortality was reduced in men reporting up to four standard drinks per day and in women who consumed one or two drinks per day. One or two alcohol-free days perweek reduced this risk further in men, but not inwomen. Similar resultswere observed for deaths due to cardiovascular disease. Conclusions: In people over the age of 65 years, alcohol intake of four standard drinks per day for men and two standard drinks per day for women was associated with lower mortality risk. For men, the risk was reduced further if accompanied with 1 or 2 alcohol-free days per week.