At What Age Do We Drink The Most?

If I asked you to guess at what age we drink the most alcohol, what would you say? 18? 21? 30? Well, if you guessed any of those answers, you'd be wrong: According to a new study published in the journal BMC Medicine, the age at which we booze the most is… drum roll, please… 25! I can't really say I'm surprised, but, well… there you have it.

Perhaps accurately, though, 25 is the age at which British people in particular drink the most; the study was conducted by researchers at University College London. Here's how it went down:

The researchers analyzed a whopping 174,000 alcohol observations from nearly 60,000 people gathered between 1979 and 2013 — that is, over the course of 34 years. Although drinking patterns tend to change a little more for dudes than they do for ladies, they both follow a similar pattern: Our alcohol use shoots through the roof in our teen years, hits a peak in early adulthood, plateaus as we move into our middle-aged years, and then declines as we become classifiable as “old.” The age at which we drink the most is 25, with men consuming about 20 units (roughly 10 pints of beer) a week and women consuming about seven to eight units a week (around four pints of beer).

25 makes a certain amount of sense to me; you're still young enough that a) using drinking at least partially as a display of “look, I'm a grownup!” is appealing, and b) you can bounce back from a night out fairly easily. But peak alcohol consumption isn't the only thing that science has proven happens at 25; so do these other things:

1. Adulthood Begins

I don't really agree with this one, but it's out there, so here: According to Professor Beatriz Luna, who teaches psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, “true adulthood” in the Western world doesn't begin until the age of 25 these days… because putting off things like marriage, careers, parenthood “encourages the brain to stay in a state of adolescence.” I take issue with that view, though. While it's true that the awful economy we've been dealing with for the past several years has made it more difficult for many recent college grads to land the nine-to-five-with-benefits situation many older generations consider “having a real job,” though, I don't think many of us younger folk have actively decided, “You know what? I'm going to stay a kid for as long as possible! That sounds awesome!” It's not awesome. It sucks. And we're trying, so please don't make us feel worse than we already do.

There's also this, though:

2. The Brain Finally Finishes Developing

Research has shown that the human brain doesn't reach full maturity until you're in your mid-20s. This is why, as many note according to MIT's Young Adult Development Project, “the rental car companies have it right”: Our brains aren't fully developed at 16, when we can drive; neither are they fully developed at 18, when we can vote; nor oar they fully developed at 21, when we can drink. But at 25, when we're finally old enough to rent a car? Apparently we're pretty much set then. Good to know.

3. Our Best Memories Are Made

This one's a little bit of a downer, but oh well. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire found in 2014 that older adults, when asked to recount their life stories, spend a disproportionate amount of time on the years that cover the ages of 15 to 30. I wonder, though, whether that's because those years tend to be the ones rife with the greatest amount of change: We grow at a rapid pace, we change schools several times, we start our first jobs, we have our first meaningful relationships, and so on. In any event, though, we all seem to look back fondly on those years. On second thought, maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.

4. Our Hangovers Start Getting Worse

According to a Danish study from 2013, the age at which we get our absolute worst hangovers is 29. So I guess at 25, at least you've still got four years to look forward to before you start regretting every single night out? Or something?

Images: Giphy (4)