Study Finds Peak Alcohol Consumption Occurs At Age 25

By McCarton Ackerman 03/09/15

Surprising as it may sound, most of one's alcohol consumption occurs during their college years.

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Plenty of college students can’t imagine their drinking habits going away anytime soon, but a new study has found that peak alcohol consumption takes place at age 25 before continuing to decline for life.

The findings, published in BMC Medicine, analyzed data from over 174,000 alcohol observations that were collected over a 34-year period from 1979-2013. After the age of 25, participants had a decline in alcohol consumption that continued until a plateau in mid-life, followed by a decline again in older age.

While middle-aged men may not drink as much as their younger counterparts, they were the most consistent drinkers in the study. Many of the middle-aged men in the study admitted to having an alcoholic drink almost every day of the week. Meanwhile, middle-aged women only drank alcohol about once a month or on special occasions. Teenagers also reported having low numbers of overall alcohol consumption, although their drinking came in bursts of once or twice a week.

A study from March 2012 found that excessive drinking among college students can cost a university more than $500,000 per year in the form of alcohol-related injuries. Researchers from the University of Madison-Wisconsin, who interviewed 954 college students that identified as “heavy drinkers,” found that 30% of males and 27% of females reported visiting an emergency room at least once due to alcohol-related injuries. Those who had alcohol-related blackouts were also 70% more likely to be treated at an ER than students who drank the same amount, but didn’t blackout.

Dartmouth College has taken a stand against student binge drinking by banning all hard alcohol on campus starting on March 30. The ban applies to liquor that has 15% alcohol content or greater and applies to both student possession and all campus-sponsored events. Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon justified the ban by saying that binge drinking with hard liquor can lead to emergency room visits.

"The Steering Committee found that high-risk drinking is far too prevalent on our campus,” he said in a speech this January. “The vast majority of alcohol-induced medical transports, it is hard alcohol—rather than beer or wine—that lands students on a hospital gurney."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.