The study's authors have deemed this broad increase in alcohol use to be a "public health crisis" that "may have been overshadowed by increases in much less prevalent substance abuse", such as opiates and marijuana. "The NSDUH shows a decline in alcohol use disorders among all age groups".
About 12.6 percent of adults reported risky drinking during the previous year in 2012-13, compared with 9.7 percent in 2001-02.
"These findings portend increases in many chronic comorbidities in which alcohol use has a substantial role", the researchers write.
Earlier this week, JAMA Psychiatry published a report claiming alcohol dependency and alcohol-related disorders are a "public health crisis" in the U.S., after a study suggested high-risk drinking among adults rose nearly 30% over an 11-year period. By 2013, almost three-quarters of American adults said they had consumed alcohol within the past year.
Heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders are risk factors associated with health problems such as heart problems, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, cancer, and infections. High-risk drinking overall rose by 29.9 percent. This is especially true among women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.
And then there's problem drinking. A study shows that women form the larger part of the alcohol abuse. That's nearly 30 million Americans actively struggling with alcohol abuse.
As alcohol use increased, the differences between the two surveys became even starker. Rates of AUD, for instance, increased by 92.8% for African-Americans, and by 65.9% for those earning $20,000 or less.
The researchers didn't theorize as to why older adults are drinking more than they used to. Deborah Hasin, the study's lead author and a professor at Columbia University, noted that while light drinking has been helpful for people's health overall, heavy drinking can often lead to some harms and impairment. And it's worrying, because older adults at are a high risk of death, injury or disease connected to alcohol use - from falls, for instance, or from adverse interactions between drugs and drinking.
The highest increase, however, is in Americans who suffered in the past 12 months from the DSM-IV variety of alcohol use disorder, also known as AUD, which the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes can exist as either alcohol abuse or dependence.
Hasin and colleagues found that the rate of alcohol use in the US was 65 percent in 2001-2002, and by 2012-2013 it had increased to 73 percent.
And growing disparities in income, education, employment and housing between whites and minorities may have led the latter to cope with alcohol, researchers suggested.