Page last updated: October 18, 2017

Older men drink more frequently, but younger men consume more in the US

The results of a Gallup poll were published in September. The survey was based on interviews with 11,544 randomly selected US adults, aged 18 and older, who drink alcohol, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.

Among the 67% of US men who drink alcohol, those aged 50 and older are more likely than those under 50 to say they have imbibed within the last 24 hours, which suggests older men drink more frequently than younger men. Younger men are more likely to consume larger quantities than older men on the occasions when they do consume alcohol.

Results of Gallup's US Consumption Habits Survey from 2001-2017 indicate that men in all age groups drink more often than women do. Among drinkers, 45% of older men report having had a drink in the past day, followed by 37% of younger men, 30% of older women and 26% of younger women. US men aged 50 and older report they consumed an average of 5.3 alcoholic drinks over the past seven days, while men aged 18 to 49 had an average of 6.2 drinks. Both older and younger women report drinking an average of fewer than three alcoholic beverages in the last week.

The beverage preference for men and women is different. Men are more likely to prefer beer (62%) than either wine (11%) or liquor (24%). In contrast, women favour wine (50%) over beer (19%) or liquor (28%). Even when accounting for gender and age, individuals who consume beer report drinking more alcoholic beverages than those who prefer wine.

Separate Gallup research has shown that men aged 50 and older have embraced the theory that moderate drinking offers health benefits to a greater degree than other groups, with 31% saying they believe moderate drinking has a positive effect on health. This compares with 23% of younger men and 22% or fewer of women in both age groups. The authors suggest that older men's pattern of drinking more frequently but consuming less alcohol each week possibly reflects in part their greater perception that moderate drinking has positive health benefits.

Regardless of gender, those aged 18 to 49 are more likely to report they sometimes drink more than they should. The figures are 32% and 19% for younger and older men, respectively, and 21% and 10% for younger and older women, respectively.
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