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Retired Status and Older Adults' 10-Year Drinking Trajectories

Penny L. Brennan, Kathleen K. Schutte, Rudolf H. Moos

Objective: Little research has examined the role of retirement in shaping late-life drinking careers, and it has generally been limited to cross-sectional designs or short-term follow-ups that emphasize group-level comparisons of retirees and nonretirees. The purpose of this study was to determine the following: (a) the effect of retired status on older adults' 10-year within-person drinking trajectories and (b) whether age, gender, income, health, and problem-drinker status account for or moderate this effect. Method: We first estimated older adults' (baseline M = 62 years; n = 595) 10-year within-person drinking trajectories using three successively predictive multilevel regression models: unconditional growth, retired status alone, and retired status controlling for covariates. Next, we determined whether inclusion of Retired Status Covariate interactions would improve prediction of the trajectories. Results: Participants' drinking frequency declined moderately over the 10-year interval, and retired status hastened the decline. However, this effect disappeared once covariates were added to the model: Baseline poorer health, lower income, and current problem-drinker status predicted steeper decline in drinking frequency, whereas former problem-drinker status predicted slower decline. Lower income and current drinking problems also predicted steeper declines in amount of alcohol consumed. There were no statistically significant or uniquely contributive interactions between retired status and age, gender, health, income, or drinking problems for predicting late-life drinking trajectories. Conclusions: Baseline health, income, and problem-drinking history are more important than retired status for predicting older adults' long-term within-person drinking trajectories. These factors--and recency of drinking problems--should be considered in future studies of retirement and late-life drinking patterns. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 71, 165-168, 2010)