A new study sheds light on how irregular yet heavy episodes of drinking during teenage years evolves into a habit of drinking nearly everyday as we grow old.
According to a research published in the open access journal, BMC Medicine, frequent drinking becomes more common in middle to old age, especially amongst men. The research carried out by researchers at University College London reveal that a substantial proportion of older men drink daily or most days of the week, while a majority of women tend to drink monthly or on special occasions.
The research involved data collection on average amount of alcohol consumption per week and the frequency of drinking of over 60,000 people and 174,000 alcohol observations over a period of 34 years, spanning from 1979 to 2013, from participants born in different eras.
The researchers found that the drinking patterns were likely to change more for men than for women, but they also reveal that both genders tend to follow a similar pattern – a rapid increase in alcohol consumption during adolescence peaking during early adulthood and plateauing in mid-life followed by a decline into older ages.
Going into specific, the findings of the study states that for men, mean consumption of alcohol rose sharply during adolescence, peaked at around 25 years at 20 units (160g) per week, roughly the equivalent of drinking 10 pints of beer followed by a decline and plateaued during mid-life, before dropping to 5-10 units, approximately 3-5 pints of beer per week, from around 60 years.
Women followed a similar pattern, but reached a lower peak of around 7-8 units per week, around 4 pints of beer, the study found.
“Understanding how drinking behaviour fluctuates throughout life is important to identify high risk groups and trends over time”, notes Lead author, Dr. Annie Britton, from University College London.
Britton adds that through the research they have shown that people change the way they consume alcohol as they age, and as such, studies reliant on a single measure of alcohol intake are likely to be biased.
The lead author added that she wasn’t surprised to see that alcohol volume changes over the life course, but she did say that the high proportion of older men drinking daily is a bit alarming as they are becoming dependent on alcohol and risks of mixing alcohol with medications are high in this age group.