Introduction: Although much of the work on risky alcohol use behaviors, such as heavy drinking, focuses on adolescence and young adulthood, these behaviors are associated with negative health consequences across all ages. Existing studies on age trends have focused on a single alcohol use behavior across many ages, using methods such as time-varying effect modeling, or a single age period with many behaviors, using methods such as latent class analysis. This study integrates aspects of both modeling approaches to examine age trends in alcohol use behavior patterns across ages 18–65. Methods: Data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III were used to identify past-year alcohol use behavior patterns among a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults (n = 30,997; 51.1% women; 63.5% White Non-Hispanic) and flexibly estimate nonlinear trends in the prevalences of those patterns across ages 18–65. Results: Five patterns were identified: Non-Drinkers, Frequent Light Drinkers, Infrequent Heavy Episodic Drinkers, Frequent Heavy Episodic Drinkers, and Extreme Drinkers. Pattern prevalences were allowed to vary flexibly across the entire age range. Prevalences of the Infrequent Heavy Episodic and Extreme Drinkers peaked around ages 22–24, but peaked for Frequent Heavy Episodic Drinkers around age 49. Non-Drinkers were most prevalent across all ages except during the early 20 s when Extreme Drinkers were more prevalent. Around ages 24–30, the Non-, Frequent Light, and Extreme Drinkers were approximately equally prevalent. Conclusions: The approach used here holds promise for understanding characteristics associated with behavior patterns at different ages and long-term age trends in complex behaviors.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Pharmacology (medical)