Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Extensive media coverage for 'Alcohol consumption across the life course'

6 March 2015

Annie Britton and Steven Bell's publication on 'Life course trajectories of alcohol consumption in the United Kingdom using longitudinal data from nine cohort studies' attracted significant media coverage from around the world.

Wine glasses

There have been over 114 media releases for Alcohol consumption across the life course (BMC Medicine, March 2015): Read the full length article here:

Key Finding

The findings show how drinking behaviour changes over our lifetimes, from adolescence through to old age, and how this could be used to design public health initiatives and sensible drinking advice.

We looked at both the average amount of alcohol consumed per week and the frequency of drinking. For men, mean consumption of alcohol rose sharply during adolescence, peaked at around 25 years then declined and plateaued during mid-life. Women followed a similar pattern, but reached a lower peak.

Drinking once or twice a week was prevalent among adolescents and those in their twenties. Drinking only monthly or on special occasions was more common among women than men. Frequent drinking (daily or most days of the week) became more common in middle to old age.

This is the first attempt to harmonise data on drinking behaviour from a wide range of population groups over their lifespan with repeated individual measures of consumption. The findings were based on over 174,000 alcohol observations collected over a 34 year period, spanning from 1979 to 2013.

We have shown that people change the way they consume alcohol as they age, and as such Research on the health consequences of alcohol needs to incorporate changes in drinking behaviour over the life course. Understanding how drinking behaviour fluctuates throughout life is important to identify high risk groups and trends over time.

Links to a sample of media releases