How Retirement Affects Drinking Later in Life

Posted under Baby Boomers on March 29, 2010

Retirement is a time of transition from work to leisure, from career to hobbies and enjoyment. It can be a time of transition for habits too, such as drinking alcohol. Patterns of social events and work commitments change when an individual enters retirement, and with that comes a re-ordering of other behaviors.

A new study focuses on the alcohol choices made by those who have entered retirement status. Penny L. Brennan, Kathleen K. Schutte, and Rudolf H. Moos looked at how retired status affected older adults’ 10-year drinking trajectories.

Because the prior research on how retirement affects drinking later in life has been minimal and has also been focused on cross-sectional examinations, or on short-term follow-ups of groups, the researchers wanted to study whether a retirement status would have an effect on the trajectories of older adults.

Brennan et al. also wanted to find out whether age, gender, income, health and problem-drinker status explained or moderated the effects of retirement on 10-year trajectories of retired persons.

To gather data, the researchers examined the trajectories of 595 individuals at 62 years of age, using three successfully predictive multilevel regression models: unconditional growth, retired status alone, and retired status controlling for covariates.
The study then looked at whether Retirement Covariate interactions would change the trajectories’ predictions.

The results of the study showed that there was a moderate decline in drinking frequency during the 10 years and that a change to retirement status sped the rate of the decline. When the researchers added covariates, however, the effect was eliminated.
Baseline poorer health, lower income and current problem-drinker status predicted a steeper decline in drinking frequency. Those who were formerly identified as a problem-drinker were predicted to have a slower decline.

Likewise, lower income and current drinking problems predicted a steeper decline in the amount of alcohol consumed.

Other covariates did not produce an association with the trajectories. Retired status and age, gender, health, income, or drinking problems did not affect the prediction of 10-year trajectories.

The findings of the study suggest that other factors are more important than retirement status for predicting adults’ drinking trajectories. The researchers stressed that the three factors and taking into consideration how recent drinking problems may affect the trajectories are critical for understanding future research.

As individuals enter retirement age, it is important to understand the various transitions that exist during older adults’ later years. The explanation of different factors impacting alcohol choices is useful in helping retired adults enjoy their retirement.