Life events and alcohol consumption among mature adults: a longitudinal analysis.
OBJECTIVE:Four waves of the Health and Retirement Study were used to examine changes in alcohol consumption co-occurring and following stress associated with major health, family and employment events. METHOD:The final sample consisted of 7,731 (3,907 male) individuals between the ages of 51 and 61 at baseline. We used multinomial logit analysis to study associations between important life events and changes in alcohol consumption over a 6-year study period. Interactions between stressful life events, gender and problem drinking were also evaluated. RESULTS:Most persons (68%) did not change their use of alcohol over the entire 6 years. Hospitalization and onset of a chronic condition were associated with decreased drinking levels. Retirement was associated with increased drinking. Widowhood was associated with increased drinking but only for a short time. Getting married or divorced was associated with both increases and decreases in drinking, with a complex lag structure. A history of problem drinking influenced the association between certain life events (e.g., divorce and retirement) and changes in drinking. Gender modified the association between losing a spouse and changes in drinking. CONCLUSIONS:Even after controlling for problem drinking history, social support and coping skills, changes in drinking behavior were related to several life events occurring over a 6-year period for a national cohort of individuals in late middle-age. The magnitude of these relationships, however, varied by gender and problem drinking history.
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