In a prospective longitudinal study of a cohort of Americans in the “Baby Boomer” generation, subjects’ drinking habits were assessed at two points, when they were approximately 53 years of age and again when they were approximately 64 years of age. As the subjects got older, they began to consume fewer drinks per occasion but to consume alcohol more frequently; the net effect was little change in total alcohol intake for women but a slight increase for men.
In most epidemiologic studies, regular moderate drinking is the pattern associated with lower risk of many chronic diseases; hence, the described change in drinking pattern in this study (smaller amounts on more frequent occasions) can be considered a “healthy” change. Most long-term observational studies show a decrease in total alcohol intake with ageing, although reasons for such are poorly understood.
This paper emphasises the importance of knowing the pattern of drinking, and not just the total number of drinks consumed over a week, when evaluating the impact of alcohol consumption on health and disease.
Reference: Molander RC, Yonker JA, Krahn DD. Age-related changes in drinking patterns from mid- to older age: results from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2010;34 (Published early online 7 May 2010).