Alcohol And Seniors


What is Typical Drinking for Seniors?


In Canada, drinking is more common among today’s seniors than it was for their parents. 


Drinking has become a pleasant past-time for an increasing number of seniors. According to the 1998-9 Statistics Canada figures, 62% of women and 72% of men aged 65 to 74 are current drinkers  (that means they drink occasionally or regularly). Sixty-one percent (61%) of men  and 45% of women aged 75 and over are current drinkers. (1) This is an increase over 1985 figures. 

Generally, alcohol consumption declines with age and the proportion of non-drinkers increases. There are a number of reasons for the overall decline in consumption: changes in life circumstances, attitudes and, sometimes, less income (particularly for older women), and growing ill health. In 1998, approximately 23% of older current drinkers reported consuming alcohol less than once per month (2).

On the other hand, 27% of the men and 21% of the women aged 65-74 reported drinking between 7 and 13 drinks a week, with another 17% of the men in this age group identifying that they drank on average more than 14 drinks a week. (3) 

An earlier national study pointed out that 22% of seniors report drinking 4 or more drinks each week, compared to 11% for the general population (4). Among men aged 65 and over, the highest proportion of current drinkers are located in British Columbia, followed by Quebec and Ontario. The greatest proportion of women drinkers are in British Columbia, followed by Ontario and the Prairies.(5).

Compared to previous generations, today’s seniors may be heavier drinkers. This could be the result of more people having higher levels of disposable income in retirement. Or, it could be that today’s seniors belong to a generation where alcohol has simply been socially available and more acceptable. (Although as noted in the Introduction, there has always been considerable ambivalence in our country towards alcohol consumption).



  1. See, Statistics Canada:
  2. Hewitt, D., Vinje, G., & Hewitt, P. (eds.) (1995) Older Canadian’s Alcohol and Other Drug Use: Increasing Our Understanding (Horizon One) (Ottawa: Health Canada), pg. 12-19. Online at :
  3. See, Statistics Canada:
  4. Hewitt, supra, n. 2.
  5. Ibid.


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