Page last updated: March 28, 2017

Trends in alcohol consumption among older Americans

According to a study published in the journal Alcohol Clinical and Experimental Research, the majority of US older adults consume alcoholic beverages and, as the older population is projected to almost double by 2050, substantially more drinkers are likely.

The study aimed to describe gender-specific trends (1997 to 2014) in prevalence of drinking status (lifetime abstention, former drinking, current drinking [including average volume], and binge drinking) among US adults ages 60+ by age group and birth cohort.

Data was taken from the 1997 to 2014 National Health Interview Surveys. 65,303 respondents aged 60+ (31,803 men, 33,500 women) were current drinkers; 6,570 men and 1,737 women were binge drinkers. Prevalence estimates and standard errors were computed by age group (60+, 60 to 64, 65 to 69, 70 to 74, 75 to 79, 80+) and birth cohort (<1925, 1925 to 1935, 1936 to 1945, 1946 to 1954). Trends were described as average annual percent change (AAPC; overall change 1997 to 2014) and annual percent change (APC; in-between infection points). Primary analyses were unadjusted, but all analyses (unadjusted and adjusted for demographics/lifestyle) were weighted to produce nationally representative estimates.

Among men ages 60+, unadjusted prevalence of current drinking trended upward, on average, 0.7% per year (AAPC, p = 0.02); average volume and prevalence of binge drinking remained stable. Adjusted results were similar. Among women age 60+, unadjusted prevalence of current drinking trended upward, on average, 1.6% per year (AAPC, p < 0.0001), but average volume remained stable; prevalence of binge drinking increased, on average, 3.7% per year (AAPC, p < 0.0001). Adjusted results were similar. Trends varied by age group and birth cohort. Among men born 1946 to 1954, unadjusted prevalence of current drinking trended upward, on average, 2.4% per year (AAPC, p = 0.02); adjusted results were nonsignificant.

The authors say that the finding of upward trends in drinking among adults ages 60+, particularly women, suggests the importance of public health planning to meet future needs for alcohol-related programmes.

Source: Trends in alcohol consumption among older Americans: National Health Interview Surveys, 1997 to 2014. Breslow RA, Castle IP, Chen CM, Graubard BI Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2017 Mar 24. doi: 10.1111/acer.13365.

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