An analysis of over half a million drinkers suggests alcohol consumption should be limited to below 100g per week.
"But above two units a day, the death rates climb".
The research found that people who reported weekly drinking of 100-200g, 200-350g or more than 350g had an estimated lower life expectancy at age 40 years of approximately 6 months, 1-2 years, or 4-5 years, respectively.
"The study found that increased alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, coronary disease, heart failure, aortic aneurysm, and fatal levels of high blood pressure", Professor Hall said.
In 2016 the recommended weekly amount for men was lowered to bring it into line with that of women at 14 units, lower than many other countries. They said recommended alcohol limits should be lowered to around 12.5 units - equal to five glasses of wine or pints of beer - a week.
The new recommended 100g a week is equivalent to between five and six standard United Kingdom glasses of wine or pints of beer. The Lancet study, however, found no evidence to support different guidelines for women and men.
In the USA, for example, the guidelines for men set an upper limit of nearly 25 units.
"This study has shown that drinking alcohol at levels which were previously believed to be safe is actually linked with lower life expectancy and several adverse health outcomes", said study co-author Dan Blazer of Duke University in North Carolina.
Alcohol consumption was found to be associated with a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but researchers point out that this must be weighed against increased risk of potentially fatal heart disease. They recorded 40,310 deaths and 39,018 cardiovascular disease events among the group's members.
"Doctors and other healthcare professionals must heed this message and transmit it to their patients".
The shocking findings challenge the widely held belief that moderate drinking is beneficial to heart health.
"These recommended drinking levels will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol".
Several Australian studies were part of this collaboration, contributing to the research and making the findings relevant to Australians.
"What it shows is that the amount of alcohol consumed affects the risk of dying", says Yeap.
Having as little as one alcoholic drink a day could shorten your life, according to a major new study.
The study was funded by the BHF, UK Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research, European Union Framework 7 and European Research Council.