Differences in alcohol use between younger and older people: Results from a general population study

Marjolein A. Veerbeek, Margreet ten Have, Saskia A. van Dorsselaer, Richard C. Oude Voshaar, Didi Rhebergen, Bernadette M. Willemse

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Prevention of problematic alcohol use is mainly focused on younger adults, while heavy drinking in middle-aged and older adults might be more frequent with more impact on functioning and health care use. Therefore, alcohol use and alcohol disorder in both age groups was compared. To facilitate age-specific prevention, it was examined whether risk factors of heavy drinking and impact on functioning and health care use differs across the life-span. Methods: Data of people (23–70 years) were used from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study-2 (N = 4618), a general population-based cohort. Heavy alcohol use was defined as >14 drinks/week for women and >21 drinks/week for men. Alcohol disorder was defined as DSM-IV disorder of alcohol abuse and/or alcohol dependence. (Multinomial) logistic regression analyses were used to study risk factors of alcohol use and associations between alcohol use and health care use and functioning. Results: The past-year prevalence of heavy alcohol was higher in older (55–70 years) compared to younger people (6.7% versus 3.8%), whereas alcohol disorder was less prevalent (1.3% versus 3.9%). Heavy alcohol use was associated with higher level of education in older adults compared to younger adults. Other characteristics of problematic alcohol use and its impact on functioning and health care use did not differ between age groups. Conclusions: Heavy drinking is more prevalent among middle-aged and older people. Contrary to younger adults, prevention of heavy alcohol use in those aged 55–70 should focus on higher educated people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-23
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Alcohol use
  • Functioning
  • Health care use
  • Older adults
  • Younger adults

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