Here's The Real Difference Between How Much Men & Women Drink

Photographed by Eric Helgas.
It may not be happy hour yet, but we're already thirsty after reading this: New research reveals how our drinking habits change as we get older — and how different women's and men's alcohol habits actually are.

The study, published in this month's issue of BMC Medicine, looked at drinking data from nine different groups of participants in the U.K., where the legal age to consume alcohol is 18. This included measures of drinking habits for nearly 60,000 participants from their teenage years into their 90s.

Their results showed that, on average, women drank less throughout their lives than men did. However, they both followed the same basic pattern. For both men and women, the most booze-heavy years began in the late teens, peaked around 25, and then declined. But, men drank much more than women at every age, peaking at an average of up to 14 drinks per person per week, which then began to decrease dramatically when men hit their 30s. Women, however, peaked at about four to five drinks per week and stayed there until their 70s (check out the graph below).

Because the data are weekly averages, this doesn't mean that everyone is drinking the same amount every day. Instead, as we might expect, daily drinking amounts can vary wildly — depending on what night of the week that big party's happening. So, not only is the number of drinks changing as we age; so are the ways in which we drink. 

Most of this follows along with common sense: Drinking is the most fun when it's a new thing in your life and all those hangovers haven't quite caught up with you yet. But, we were a little surprised to see such huge gender differences here. This may simply be due to how women tend to drink — for instance, these results suggest we're more likely than men to drink only on special occasions. 

However, it's interesting to note that even when these participants got pretty far up there in years, their drinking never stopped. Presumably, our golden years are when we'll finally have the time to sip cocktails on sunny patios and reminisce about the good ol' days — without having to worry about any Monday-morning consequences. Cheers to that. 
Image: Courtesy of Britton et al. in BMC Medicine 2015 13:47 doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0273-z
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