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The effect of retirement on alcohol consumption: results from the US Health and Retirement Study

Xu Wang, Jessica B. Steier, William T. Gallo
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/cku027 485-489 First published online: 18 March 2014

Abstract

Background: Prior research examining the association between retirement and alcohol consumption is inconsistent with respect to salience, direction and magnitude. Reasonable conceptual arguments for both positive (e.g. coping, introduction of leisure time) and negative (e.g. severance of work-related social relationships) changes further complicate investigations of this critical association, as do differences in study design, national setting and measurement of alcohol use. Methods: This prospective longitudinal study analyses 2-year wave-pairs drawn from seven waves (14 years) of data from the US Health and Retirement Study to assess the effect of complete retirement on weekly alcohol consumption (n = 9979 observations; 4674 unique participants). We use multiple regression analysis in a two-period follow-up design and account for potential selection bias and reverse causality not addressed in prior research on this topic. Results: We find that retirement is positively associated with subsequent weekly alcohol consumption for men who reported drinking at both follow-up and the prior study wave (β = 1.9, 95% confidence interval = 0.43–3.36). No association was observed among women. Conclusion: Our results suggest that health care professionals should monitor the drinking habits of retired men, as older individuals are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of heavy alcohol use.

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