British women's binge drinking is clearly defined by their age and education, suggests a large, long term study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Educated women binge drink in their 20s, but curb their habits by their 40s. But the reverse is true of women with little education, whose binge drinking is more likely to take off in their 40s, shows the research.
But the prevalence of binge drinking remains substantial into adulthood, shows the research, with 31% of men and 14% of women binge drinking at 42 years.
The findings are based on a representative cohort of more than 11,500 British men and women, all of whom were born during one week in March 1958.
They were monitored throughout childhood and into adulthood, and surveyed about how much and how often they drank alcohol at the ages of 23, 33, and 42.
Binge drinking was classified as 10 or more units of alcohol in one sitting for men, and seven or more for women.
Among men, the prevalence of binge drinking fell from 36% at the age of 23 to 31% by the age of 42. Among women, the equivalent figures were 18% and 14%.
Less educated men were significantly more likely to be binge drinkers at all ages, with little change across the decades.
But the same was not true of women. Highly qualified women were about one third more likely than women with no or few qualifications to binge drink at the age of 23. But by the time women reached their 40s, it was the less educated women who were significantly more likely to be the binge drinkers, while binge drinking in educated women was less common.
Women with no or few qualifications were more than 2.5 times as likely as their highly qualified peers to be binge drinking by the age of 42.