Changes in alcohol use in relation to sociodemographic factors in early midlife

Scand J Public Health. 2016 May;44(3):249-57. doi: 10.1177/1403494815622088. Epub 2015 Dec 18.


Objective: To describe changes in alcohol use in relation to employment, education and relationship statuses in a general population sample in early midlife using prospective birth cohort data.

Materials and methods: In the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 (N=5621) alcohol use was studied in participants at two time points: ages 31 and 46. The total mean consumption was calculated and participants were classified into steady drinkers, increasers and reducers based on the change in consumption between the ages of 31 and 46. Multinomial regression analysis was conducted with changes in employment and relationship statuses.

Results: Daily alcohol consumption rose by 30% for men and 40% for women. Persons who were unemployed, single or had a low level of education consumed most. Of the alcohol users, 70% were classified as steady drinkers, 10% as reducers and 20% as increasers. For men, leaving a relationship (odds ratio, OR 1.5; 95% confidence interval, CI: 1.0-2.1) predicted increased alcohol use. The predictors of reducing consumption were entering a relationship for men (OR 1.9; 95% CI: 1.2-2.9) and women (OR 1.9; 95% CI: 1.1-3.1), and leaving a relationship (OR 2.6; 95% CI: 1.6-4.3) for women.

Conclusions: Alcohol consumption among Finns of northern origin does not seem to decline with age. Alcohol usage is fairly stable in the majority of middle-aged people. A substantial proportion of alcohol users engage in either binge or heavy drinking. Gender differences in predictors exist-- changes in relationship status predict a reduction in alcohol usage in women, whereas in men, divorce predicts an increase in usage.

Keywords: Alcohol; binge drinking; birth cohort; heavy drinking; longitudinal; sociodemographic status.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Educational Status
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution