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Older Men Drink More Regularly, but Younger Men Drink More

Older Men Drink More Regularly, but Younger Men Drink More
by RJ Reinhart

Story Highlights

  • 45% of U.S. men aged 50 and older say they drank alcohol in the last 24 hours
  • 37% of men aged 18 to 49 say the same
  • Men aged 18 to 49 consume an average of 6.2 drinks a week

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Among the 67% of U.S. men who drink alcohol, those aged 50 and older are more likely than those under 50 to say they have imbibed within the last 24 hours, which suggests older men drink more frequently than younger men. However, younger men likely drink more than older men on the occasions when they do consume alcohol.

Patterns of Alcohol Consumption Among Americans Who Drink
Drank alcohol within the last 24 hours Mean number of drinks in the last seven days
%
U.S. adults 34 4.3
Men, 18 to 49 37 6.2
Men, 50 and older 45 5.3
Women, 18 to 49 26 2.9
Women, 50 and older 30 2.3
Gallup, 2001-2017

Men in all age groups drink more often than women do. Among drinkers, 45% of older men report having had a drink in the past day, followed by 37% of younger men, 30% of older women and 26% of younger women.

U.S. men aged 50 and older report they consumed an average of 5.3 alcoholic drinks over the past seven days, while men aged 18 to 49 had an average of 6.2 drinks. Both older and younger women report drinking fewer than three alcoholic beverages in the last week.

These data come from aggregated results of Gallup's Consumption Habits Survey from 2001-2017, totaling interviews with 11,544 U.S. adults who drink alcohol.

The type of drinks that men and women prefer may at least partly explain the difference in the number of alcoholic beverages they report having. In 2017, men are far more likely to say beer is their alcoholic beverage of choice (62%) than either wine (11%) or liquor (24%). In contrast, women favor wine (50%) over beer (19%) or liquor (28%). Even when accounting for gender and age, individuals who consume beer report drinking more alcoholic beverages than those who prefer wine, underscoring the relationship between one's beverage of choice and total consumption.

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Separate Gallup research has shown that men aged 50 and older have embraced the theory that moderate drinking offers health benefits to a greater degree than other groups, with more than three in 10 (31%) saying they believe moderate drinking has a positive effect on health. This compares with 23% of younger men and 22% or fewer of women in both age groups. It is possible that older men's pattern of drinking more frequently but consuming less alcohol each week reflects in part their greater perception that moderate drinking has positive health benefits.

Younger People More Likely to Drink More Than They Should

Regardless of gender, those aged 18 to 49 are more likely to report they sometimes drink more than they should. The figures are 32% and 19% for younger and older men, respectively, and 21% and 10% for younger and older women, respectively.

Younger men's pattern of drinking more but less often (compared with older men) is likely related to their higher likelihood of saying they sometimes drink more than they should. Older men, while reporting more frequent drinking, are no more likely to report drinking more than they should than younger women.

Americans Who Say They Sometimes Drink More Than They Should
Do you sometimes drink more alcoholic beverages than you should?
Men Women
% %
Aged 18 to 49 32 21
Aged 50 and older 19 10
Gallup, 2001-2017

Bottom Line

In general, men report consuming more alcoholic drinks, and drinking more frequently, than women. At the same time, while men aged 50 and older drink more frequently than men aged 18 to 49, they end up drinking fewer drinks overall in the course of a week.

There are likely several reasons for these differences in addition to choice of beverage and belief in health benefits. Cultural and social patterns of drinking, such as imbibing while watching sporting events or at after-work gatherings, as well as physiological differences between men and women, such as men's greater average weight, likely factor into alcohol consumption patterns.

Gallup's data do not indicate whether people are consuming drinks in one sitting or over the course of a week. If consumed over a week, this would indicate a moderate level of social drinking. However, if consumed in one sitting, the levels of alcohol consumption would likely meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's definition of binge drinking for both older and younger men.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on combined telephone interviews from Gallup's annual Consumption Habits survey, conducted each July from 2001 to 2017. The combined sample is based on interviews with 11,544 randomly selected U.S. adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, who drink alcohol.

For results based on the total sample of 3,931 adults who drank an alcoholic beverage within the last 24 hours, the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the total sample of 7,731 adults who consumed an alcoholic beverage within the last seven days, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the total sample of 2,065 adults who say they sometimes drink more than they should, the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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