Alcohol Consumption in Young Adults: a Higher Overall Risk of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in Men and an Increasing Risk of Heavy Episodic Drinking in Women

Com-Ruelle L. (IRDES), Choquet M. (INSERM)

Questions d'économie de la santé (Issues in Health Economics) n° 265 - January 2022

QES n° 265

In France, few studies have been conducted thus far on alcohol consumption amongst young people aged 18-30. However, studying the issue of alcohol consumption during the "emerging adult age" period provides a better understanding of the changes during this pivotal period -the transition from adolescence to adulthood-, which tends to be lengthy and results in very diverse situations and life trajectories. During a person's life, the risk of excessive alcohol consumption, which is an "avoidable" risk, culminates in a high proportion of risk of heavy episodic -rather than chronic- drinking between the ages of eighteen and thirty. At any age, the gap between men and women is very significant, as the risk of both episodic and chronic alcohol consumption in men is around twice as high. Almost three quarters of young women are not at risk, and they moderate their drinking at an earlier age, between the age of twenty-five and thirty, while men still increase their drinking. However, between 2002 and 2014, while the overall risk of excessive alcohol consumption tended to decrease amongst men due to a lower risk of chronic alcohol consumption, it increased slightly amongst young women due to a risk of episodic alcohol consumption.
Furthermore, socio-economic factors influence a generation's drinking behaviour. For example, the overall risk of excessive alcohol consumption in employed men aged 18-24 was higher than in students and the unemployed, whereas only unemployed women were less at risk at that age. In men and women aged 18-24 and 25-30, the risk increased with education and income levels. These are the findings of the 2014 European Health Interview Survey (Enquête Santé Européenne, EHIS) and previous Health, Health Care and Insurance Surveys (Enquête santé et protection Sociale, ESPS), conducted between 2002 and 2012.

See also Questions d'économie de la santé n° 265 in French: La consommation d'alcool des jeunes adultes : un risque global d'alcoolisation excessive bien plus élevé pour les hommes mais un risque ponctuel en augmentation pour les femmes.