A new study published in the open access journal, BMC Medicine, has shed light on how drinking patterns change from adolescence to old age – with peaks during the age of 25 years and more regular consumption during old age.
The study is the first attempt to harmonise data on drinking behaviour from a wide range of population groups over their lifespan with repeated individual measures of consumption, the researchers note.
Researchers show how drinking behaviour changes over our lifetimes, from adolescence through to old age, and these findings could be used to design public health initiatives and sensible drinking advice.
The findings of the study, involving over 60,000 people and over 174,000 alcohol observations, indicate that there is a rapid increase in alcohol intake during adolescence leading to a peak in early adulthood, followed by a plateau in mid-life, and then a decline into older ages. The pattern is more or less the same for men as well as women.
More specifically in case of men, mean consumption of alcohol rose sharply during adolescence, peaking at around 25 years at 20 units per week, roughly the equivalent of drinking 10 pints of beer. The behaviour declined and plateaued during mid-life, before dropping to 5-10 units, approximately 3-5 pints of beer per week, from around 60 years.
In case of women, the pattern is almost the same, but reached a lower peak of around 7-8 units per week, around 4 pints of beer.
From the findings it is evident that teenagers are more inclined towards irregular but heavy drinking episodes, but as we grow older there is a shift towards a regular drinking pattern. The study finds 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.