Objective: To estimate patterns of long-term, within-person, changes in alcohol consumption among adults of different ages and assess key predictors of alcohol-use patterns over time.
Method: Data came from 3,617 adults, interviewed up to four times between 1986 and 2002. Multilevel multinomial logit models estimated the odds of abstinence and heavy drinking relative to moderate drinking.
Results: The odds of abstinence increased and the odds of heavy drinking decreased during the study period. Older adults experienced faster increases in abstinence than younger adults. However, data extrapolations suggest that current younger adults are more likely to be abstinent and less likely to be heavy drinkers during late life than current older adults. Time-varying health, social, and lifestyle factors account for some of these patterns.
Discussion: Drinking behavior in our aging population appears to be on a relatively promising course, perhaps reflecting the effectiveness of public health efforts.