Study: Middle-Aged Adults Have a Binge Drinking Problem

Binge drinking among adults aged 35 to 50 is at a record high

Beer bottles on a table. New studies suggest older Americans are binge drinking at record levels, while younger generations are avoiding alcohol.
As older Americans are drinking more, younger generations are increasingly avoiding alcohol
Chris Hayward/Getty Images

Whatever happened to moderation? Two recent stories showcase a generational gap when it comes to consuming alcohol. The first: according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health, adults aged 35 to 50 in 2022 reported the highest prevalence of binge drinking ever recorded for this age group. What’s more, the numbers represent a “significant past-year, five-year and 10-year increase.”

While the emphasis of the annual study was more on cannabis and hallucinogen use, the report did showcase some disturbing drinking trends. Alcohol use among adults aged 35 to 50 has had a gradual increase over the course of the last 10 years, with past-year drinking increasing from 83% in 2012 to 85% in 2022. Binge drinking in this older group reached its highest levels (29% in 2022).

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In the same study, rates of alcohol use have shown an overall downward trend for adults 19 to 30 years old, though past-year drinking slightly increased for this age group in 2022 (84%) compared to five years ago (82% in 2017). Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll suggests most people, particularly in the 18 to 34 age range, aren’t tolerating drinking at all. A record-high 39% of Americans now say consuming one to two drinks a day is bad for one’s health, an 11-percentage-point increase since 2018. The respondents also stated that they found alcohol more harmful than cannabis, though far less harmful than tobacco.

As Gallup notes: “While the five-year time span since the prior reading is too long to attribute the change to any specific event, it comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its dietary guidelines for alcohol intake, and the World Health Organization published research showing that no level of alcohol is safe for one’s health.”

Whatever your stance on alcohol, it would behoove older generations (and that includes this writer) to take it easy.


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