Episodic Heavy Drinking and 20-Year Total Mortality Among Late-Life Moderate Drinkers




Analyses of moderate drinking have focused overwhelmingly on average consumption, which masks diverse underlying drinking patterns. This study examined the association between episodic heavy drinking and total mortality among moderate-drinking older adults.


At baseline, the sample was comprised of 446 adults aged 55 to 65; 74 moderate drinkers who engaged in episodic heavy drinking and 372 regular moderate drinkers. The database at baseline also included a broad set of sociodemographic, behavioral, and health status covariates. Death across a 20-year follow-up period was confirmed primarily by death certificate.


In multiple logistic regression analyses, after adjusting for all covariates, as well as overall alcohol consumption, moderate drinkers who engaged in episodic heavy drinking had more than 2 times higher odds of 20-year mortality in comparison with regular moderate drinkers.


Among older moderate drinkers, those who engage in episodic heavy drinking show significantly increased total mortality risk compared to regular moderate drinkers. Episodic heavy drinking—even when average consumption remains moderate—is a significant public health concern.