Drinking Patterns: Consuming Alcohol Across the Life Cycle

Drinking patterns generally change over the life cycle. But exactly how do they change? How consistent are they? Do drinking patterns differ between men and women. If so, how?

drinking patternsThe goal of this study was to determine typical drinking patterns over the life cycle. It analyzed data from nine prospective cohorts. Each had at least three repeated measures of alcohol consumption.

The total sample size was 59,397. It included 174,666 individual observations. The data spanned the life cycle from adolescence to over the age of 90.


Among men, average drinking rose sharply during adolescence. It then peaked around the age of 25 and then declined and plateaued during mid-life. Finally, it began declining from about age 60.

A similar pattern was found for women. But there was much lower overall drinking. Peak drinking for men was 20 drinks per week. For women it was around seven to eight drinks per week.

Total quantity of alcohol consumed declined during the life cycle. But drinking daily or on most days of the week increased. That was during mid to older age. This was greater among men.

Other research has found that drinking frequently is important. It increases the health benefits of moderate drinking.

Drinking Patterns Across the Life Cycle


Readings on Alcohol Drinking Patterns.