Alcohol consumption among the over 50s: international comparisons

Alcohol Alcohol. 2015 Jan;50(1):1-10. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agu082. Epub 2014 Nov 28.


Aim: Research exploring alcohol consumption patterns and behaviour change among older adults is relatively scarce, often necessitating reliance on international evidence. To understand the degree to which findings may be generalizable across countries, this review compares recent epidemiological evidence from developed countries on the prevalence of abstention and potentially problematic alcohol consumption in older adults.

Methods: Medline, EMBASE, Web of Science and PsychInfo were searched for English language publications, identifying 21 peer-reviewed publications and six reports, including data from 17 national surveys and 10 general practice and community samples published since 2000.

Results: Of the developed countries for which data are available on adults aged over 50 years, rates of past 12-month abstention and former drinking are lowest in England and Finland, and highest in Korea and the USA. The prevalence of binge drinking varies widely between studies, whilst rates of alcohol dependence are broadly similar.

Conclusions: Older adults in developed countries report different rates of abstention and alcohol consumption. This places obvious limitations on the extrapolation of results from specific research findings and policy strategies to other countries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Abstinence / statistics & numerical data
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Binge Drinking / epidemiology
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence