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Research Summary

Predicting Drinking Patterns Among Aging Adults

Understanding how drinking patterns change over time has particularly important implications for an aging population. To examine these patterns, investigators in the United States analyzed data on alcohol use from 14,105 adult participants in a national health and nutrition survey. Subjects were interviewed at baseline (mean age 47 years) and at 4 additional times over 20 years. Forty-three percent consistently (i.e., at each interview) identified themselves as drinkers.

Results from analyses adjusted for birth year, per capita consumption, and various demographic factors (e.g., sex, race, education) include the following:

  • Weekly alcohol consumption at age 57 (the reference age) was greater in men, whites, smokers, those who were unmarried, and those with higher educational and income levels.
  • Alcohol consumption decreased as age increased. This decline was lower in more recent birth cohorts and greater in men, nonwhites, smokers, those who were unmarried, and those with a lower educational level.


These high-quality data reveal patterns (such as a lower age-associated decline in intake among more recent birth cohorts) that may prove to have public health consequences. Comparable patterns among unhealthy drinkers would be of particular interest.

Jeffrey H. Samet, MD, MA, MPH


Moore AA, Gould R, Reuben DB, et al. Longitudinal patterns and predictors of alcohol consumption in the United States. Am J Public Health. 2005;95(3):458–465.