38 year olds and alcohol

Stuff reports:

A new study has dispelled the myth that having drunken sex before waking to a world of regret is only common among young New Zealanders.

Depends on your definition of common. The study found 13% of 38 year olds had regrets, which means 87% did not. Not sure I’d call that common.

It also reveals Kiwis are more likely to have at least one heavy drinking session a week at the age of 38 than when they were 32. 

But it also reveals that are more likely to have had no heavy drinking sessions at all.

The University of Otago study has shown drinking before sex remains common among people approaching middle age and can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and abortion. 

Linking two things here, which are quite different.

Yes many 38 year olds have alcohol before sex. If you have a glass of wine over dinner with your partner and then you have sex, that counts as alcohol before sex. Is that somehow bad? It is not surprise that 82% of 38 year olds have said they sometimes have alcohol before sex

Those who have regretful sex with bad conseqences is far less common – only 13%.

“We feel young people drink a lot because we see a lot of it, but really the whole population drinks a lot,” the study’s lead author Professor said.

The study found that 53% of 38 year old men and 73% of 38 year old women have had no heavy drinking occasions (20% and 35%) or rare (less than monthly) ones (33% and 39%).

The definition of heavy drinking is not apparent in the article, but I presume it is four or more standard drinks. So share a bottle of wine over dinner and that is a heavy drinking occasion.

When they were assessed at 38 years of age, 8 per cent of men and almost 15 per cent of women in the study said they usually or always drunk alcohol before having sex in the previous 12 months. Only 20 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women said they never did so.

The actual data is:

  • Always 0.5% men/1.6% women
  • Usually 8%/13%
  • Sometimes 42%/40%
  • Rarely 30%/30%
  • Never 20%/15

I don’t see any problem with the 92% of 38 year old men who sometimes, rarely or never have alcohol before sex, or 85% of women. So the problem group is around in 12 men and one in 7 women.

About 14 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women reported some adverse effects of drinking before sex in that year, including regretting sex and failure to use contraception or condoms.

Only 13% have had an adverse effect, which means 87% have not.

The study showed that drinking heavily at least once a week was more common at 38 years of age than it had been at 32.

Yes, but not mentioned is not drinking at all also more common at age 38. Only the bad data has been highlighted by the author.

The change in heavy drinking occasions were:

  • Never 11% to 20% for men/34% to 35% for women
  • Less than monthly 34% to 33%/30% to 39%
  • Monthly to less than weekly 34% to 24%/19% to 17%
  • Weekly 21% to 24%/7% to 10%

So if we group never and less than monthly together as light and weekly to monthly as heavy then the data is:

  • Light drinking men – from 45% to 53%
  • Light drinking women – from 74% to 73%
  • Heavy drinking men – from 55% to 47%
  • Heavy drinking women – from 26% to 27%

So the argument that heavy drinking is more common at age 38 than 32 is not supported. Women have stayed much the same, and men are having fewer heavy drinking occasions.

Note I have done this post based on reading the actual academic article, and the data. That requires more work than just repeating the press release.


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