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Reciprocal relations between stressors and drinking behavior: a three-wave panel study of late middle-aged and older women and men

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Aim. To examine reciprocal relations between stressors and drinking behavior among late-middle-aged and older women and men. Design, setting, and participants. A community sample of 621 women and 941 men (mean age="61)" provided information about their life stressors and drinking behavior at three times: initial assessment, 1 year later and 4 years later. Structural equation modeling with manifest variables was used to examine cross-temporal relations between stressors and drinking behavior. Findings. Stressors did not predict heavier or more frequent drinking. In fact, among women, increased health stressors predicted a reduction of alcohol consumption; among men, increased financial stressors suppressed alcohol consumption. Higher stressor levels in some life domains did foreshadow later drinking problems. More initial drinking problems resulted in more subsequent financial and spouse stressors for both women and men. Contrary to expectation, more frequent alcohol consumption presaged fewer negative life events, health stressors, and financial stressors for women, and fewer health stressors for men. Conclusions. The findings suggest that among older adults there may be a harmful feedback cycle whereby problematic drinking and life stressors exacerbate each other, but also a benign feedback cycle in which moderate alcohol consumption and life stressors reduce each other.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 1999


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