A new review-study from Australia finds that middle-aged drinkers are an understudied demographic when it comes to alcohol consumption, despite a wealth of information suggesting that they may actually drink more heavily than younger adults.
And that might explain, say these scientists, why organized efforts to get older adults to recognize and lower their consumption are generally less successful than doctors hope.
Part of the problem is that the goal line for what “healthy drinking” means keeps changing. Low-level drinking, for example, was, until recently, considered acceptable but research published this year suggests that no level of alcohol consumption can be considered healthy because even consuming just a single drink daily may increase your risk for certain types of cancers.
And then there’s the widely held belief that middle-aged adults consume less alcohol than young adults. But that may not be true. In the UK, for example, men aged 55-64 and women aged 45-54 actually consume more alcohol overall than college-aged people.
Another issue is the fact that alcohol consumption can be deeply tied to a person’s gender, professional and personal identities. In addition, alcohol can play a central role in our rituals, whether it’s a beer to mark the end of a workday or a glass of champagne raised as a toast at our son’s wedding.
However we use alcohol, these researchers say, our attitudes about drinking are deeply engrained and difficult to fully address. But learning more about how (and why) middle-aged people imbibe can help doctors steer them toward healthier choices.
The study was published at the website for BMC Public Health.