Aims To estimate the separate influences of age, period and cohort on the consumption of beer wine and spirits in the United States.
Design Linear age–period–cohort models controlling for demographic change with extensive specification testing.
Setting US general population 1979–2000.
Measurements Monthly average of past-year consumption of beer, wine and spirits in five National Alcohol Surveys.
Findings The strongest cohort effects are found for spirits; cohorts born before 1940 are found to have significantly higher consumption than those born after 1946, with especially high spirits consumption for men in the pre-1930s cohorts. Significant cohort effects are also found for beer with elevated consumption in the 1946–65 cohorts for men but in the pre-1940 cohorts for women. Significant negative effects of age are found for beer and spirits consumption, although not for wine. Significant period effects are found for men's beer and wine consumption and for women's spirits consumption. Increased educational attainment in the population over time is associated with reduced beer consumption and increased wine consumption.
Conclusions Changing cohort demographics are found to have significant effects on beverage-specific consumption, indicating the importance of controlling for these effects in the evaluation of alcohol policy effectiveness and the potential for substantial improvement in the forecasting of future beverage-specific consumption trends, alcohol dependence treatment demand and morbidity and mortality outcomes.