The Grapevine

Quarter-Life Crisis Sobriety: Alcohol Consumption Peaks At 25 Before Declining For Life

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In order to tackle the widespread problem of alcohol abuse, it's important to understand who's at risk. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The quarter-life crisis has recently acquired a new tell-tale sign: disinterest in alcohol. A British study followed the drinking habits of men and women throughout their lifetime and found that regardless of your gender, most individuals hit their peak alcohol consumption at age 25, followed by a decline and long period of plateau.

For parents worried that their young adult children are simply drinking too much alcohol, relax. While it is true that drinking in excess can have severe consequences, according to a recent study, drinking habits in youth are likely to decrease before age 30 and are not a clear indication of lifetime habits.

The study, now published in BMC Medicine, was conducted to follow how drinking patterns change throughout an individual’s lifetime. The findings were based on over 174,000 alcohol observations collected over a 34-year period, spanning from 1979 to 2013, from participants born in different eras, the press release reported.

“Understanding how drinking behavior fluctuates throughout life is important to identify high risk groups and trends over time,” said lead author, Dr. Annie Britton, as reported in the press release.

Most individuals' relationship with alcohol followed the same pattern: sharp rise in adolescence, peak at around age 25, mid-life decline and plateau, and decline again in older age.

What was most surprising from the study was that while young adults of both genders may be more inclined to throw back shots on a Friday night, middle-aged men win the award for the world’s biggest overall drinkers, with many middle-aged men admitting to an alcoholic drink nearly every day of the week. Women, on the other hand, tended to drink alcohol only about once a month or on special occasions as they aged.

Teenagers were found to have surprisingly low figures for alcohol consumption. Even though in the UK, where the study was conducted, the legal drinking age is 18, teens still admitted to having only short bursts of alcohol consumption about once or twice a week.

Alcohol abuse is a serious problem with serious consequences. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much too often causes permanent damage to the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, immune system, and can even lead to certain types of cancer.

The recent study cited that failure to consider that alcohol dynamics change with age led to incorrect estimates as to who fell into at-risk groups. “It is essential that the dynamic nature of exposure to alcohol over the life span is incorporated into the estimates of harm,” the researchers concluded.

Source: Britton A, Ben-Sholomo Y, Benzeval M, Kuh D, Bell S. Life course trajectories of alcohol consumption in the United Kingdom using longitudinal data from nine cohort studies. BMC Medicine. 2015

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