Alcohol abuse on the rise among seniors, study says
Nearly three million Americans aged 55 and older suffer from alcohol abuse. That number will spike to almost six million by 2020, according to a study in the health journal Addiction.
So what’s the connection between the troubling statistic and being retired?
Researchers at Tel Aviv University found that it is not retirement alone that leads to substance abuse, but rather an abundance of circumstances that come from leaving the work force. This life-changing chapter in older adult’s lives typically coincides with painful later-life events such as the death of spouses and friends.
Professor Peter A. Bamberger of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Management and Professor Samuel B. Bacharach of Cornell University conducted the study.
“We found that the conditions under which people retired – whether they were pushed into it or it was something expected, which they planned for – had great bearing on alcohol and drug habits,” said Bamberger in a press release.
The comprehensive ten-year study surveyed 1,200 service, construction and manufacturing workers aged 52 – 57 years old. The study found that retirement can lead to marital strain, which can also lead older adults to misuse or abuse substances like alcohol.
“The worst combination we found was among people who took early retirement from jobs they loved because they were terrified their companies were going under,” Bamberger said.
Another study in 2011 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found out that the rate of current illicit drug use has increased to 6.3 percent in 2011 from 2.7 percent in 2002. The number of older adults is projected to skyrocket in the next 20 years to 73 million adults.
Researchers hope the findings lead to increased efforts to screen for those who may be vulnerable and interventions that highlight behavioral changes.
“Sometimes awareness alone is enough to bring about positive change,” researchers said Bamberger. “Even short phone calls or brief Internet-based feedback can be so instrumental.”
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