Gender differences in alcohol consumption among middle-aged and older adults in Australia, the United States and Korea

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2014 Aug;38(4):332-9. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12227. Epub 2014 Jun 24.


Objectives: To compare gender differences in alcohol use and the socioeconomic correlates of at-risk drinking among middle-aged and older adults in Australia, the United States (US) and South Korea.

Method: Data were drawn from large nationally representative surveys of people aged 45 years and older, collected in 2006.

Results: Rates of any drinking and at-risk drinking (>14 US standard drinks/week) were higher for males than females in all countries and these gender differences were largest in Korea. Socioeconomic differentials for at-risk drinking varied by country and gender. In the US, at-risk drinking was associated with lower educational levels among men, but higher educational levels among women; in Korea, it was associated with being unpartnered, particularly for women; and in Australia, at-risk drinking was associated with higher income.

Conclusions: Gender-role expectations differ between countries and may influence both the levels at which older adults consume alcohol and the ways in which at-risk drinking is associated with socioeconomic factors.

Implications: Heavy alcohol use in middle-aged and older adults is a cause for concern. Health promotion strategies should target older age groups and consider the ways in which gender, marital status and education influence norms and opportunities for risky alcohol use.

Keywords: Australia; South Korea; United States; alcohol consumption; gender difference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology