Science has figured out just how average your alcohol consumption is. Did you wake up in a small, sour patch of your own sick today? That could be normal, depending on your age. Did you have a warm tin of lager in a bubble-less bath? That could also be entirely normal. Just you, a bottle of port and some Celine Dion songs? Could that ever be OK? Let's find out, via science.
The BioMed Central (BMC) journal published new research from UCL's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health this month, showing the trajectory of alcohol consumption over the average UK lifetime. The key findings were this: for men, alcohol consumption peaks at the age of 25, with around 13 units per week, while for women it was much lower: their peak weekly alcohol consumption was only four drinks.
If you are confused because you are a young drunk woman and you have more than four drinks directly in front of you right now, be chill. The data for this study was collected from a series of cross-sectional surveys and industry data, so that means it encompasses all those people who don't drink for religious or health reasons; who don't drink because otherwise they have nothing to talk about on Facebook during Lent; everyone who takes drugs instead of drinking; and all those people who had a bad can of cider when they were 15 and ended up ruining all the floor mats in their dad's Volvo, and now whenever you say the word-pair "blackcurrant Strongbow" they get a thousand-yard stare on them and have to go home. Four drinks per week is just the peak average out of that.
But hey, if you're past 25 and you're worried that your best drinking days are behind you: do not be worried about that thing. While drug and alcohol consumption tends to peak in the mid-twenties (this is not an astonishing trend), the study did find more regular consumption in early-thirties to middle age – so instead of going out on a Friday and waking up on a Sunday in a McDonald's car park with the taste of arse in your mouth, you tend to spread your drinking out over the week.
"Frequent drinking (daily or most days of the week) became more common during mid to older age, most notably among men," the study's authors said. And going teetotal becomes more of a thing with age, too, although the numbers are still low: "Non-drinkers were uncommon, particularly among men, where the proportion remained under 10 percent until old age, when it rose to above 20 percent among those aged over 90," the research said.
If you think about it, your life's story is told by drinks: those frigid WKDs and three-litre Frosty Jack's cider bottles you used to guzzle on park benches while you first got your tops; that crap pint of John Smith's your dad bought you to have with a meal in a pub-restaurant back when you were 16; pound-a-pint fizzy lagers and vodka and cokes when you got your fake ID and started being allowed into nightclubs.
Then you did drugs for a while and now look at you: wearing a little bit of a beer paunch around your middle, the slow drain of your youth trickling away into the gutter. You won't get it back, will you? Your body can't ping back like it used to. You have to do cardio and not have carbs. The only thing you do quickly any more is approach the age of 30. And then you're coasting down the hill towards death: a few tins after work as you re-watch football highlights, an entire bottle of wine once the kids have gone to sleep. And then they flee the nest, and you are free – free at last – retired and ready to live, waking up at 6AM in that way old people do and waiting around until you can crack out the pale cream sherry and the ruby port. Granddad dying with a whiskey in his hand. Anyway: happy drinking!