The worldwide team of researchers analyzed almost 600,000 people aged 30-100 from 19 different countries as part of 80 different studies.
"When the U.S. reviews their guidelines, I would hope they would use this as evidence to consider lowering the guidelines for men probably in line with female guidelines", the study's lead author, Angela Wood, a senior lecturer at the University of Cambridge, told The Washington Post.
The research, which included Australian authors and data, found that drinking more than this lowered people's life expectancy at age 40 by between six months and five years. There's variation from country to country as to how many grams of alcohol are generally found in a standard drink. "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. "The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines has roughly two years lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life".
The UK recommends people do not drink more than 14 units a week - or around 6 pints of beer or glasses of wine - giving it one of the strictest set of guidelines in the world.
In Australia, a standard drink is a 30ml nip of a spirit, a can of mid-strength beer or 100ml of wine (13.5% alcohol).
Higher alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease, and fatal aneurysms.
The amount of alcohol in a standard drink varies from country to country.
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The United States government now advises no more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 for men.
Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietician at the British Heart Foundation said: "This powerful study may make sobering reading for countries that have set their recommendations at higher levels than the United Kingdom, but this does seem to broadly reinforce government guidelines for the UK".
The new research does not suggest that a drinker who has just a little too much every day is falling off an epidemiological cliff.
The researchers also note that the varying nature of alcohol guidelines from country to country makes the study's implications particularly impactful.
"These figures are in line with the UK Chief Medical Officer's guidance and support previous studies which show that the lifetime risk from many cardiovascular diseases for most people who are moderate drinkers is lower than for those who drink heavily, or don't drink at all".
The study was published this week in The Lancet. The participants had to be current drinkers and were followed up for at least one year (most participants were followed up for between 5 and 18 years). Above this, there was increased risk of both heart attack and heart disease.
This likelihood of an early death increases the more alcohol is consumed, the Cambridge-led researchers said. It relied on self-reported drinking habits, and didn't take into account the effect of alcohol over the course of a person's life, for example.