Abstract: Moderating Effect of Alcohol Use on the Effect of the Retirement Transition on Depressive Symptoms Among Older Adults (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Moderating Effect of Alcohol Use on the Effect of the Retirement Transition on Depressive Symptoms Among Older Adults

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Antonia Diaz-Valdes Iriarte, PhD, Assistant Professor, Universidad Mayor - Chile, Stgo, Chile
Christina Sellers, PhD, Assistant Professor, Simmons University, Boston, MA
Background and purpose: 90% of people aged 65 and older experience depression at least once during their last years (Segura-Cardona, Cardona-Arango, Segura-Cardona & Garzón-Duque, 2015). Depression is one of the most common and unrecognized disease at old age. Depression increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, daily life limitations and highly correlated to dementia (García-Esquinas et al, 2018; Calderón, 2018). Understanding the determinants, and especially, the role that retirement plays on depression is key to ensure healthier longer lives. Most studies about the effect of retirement and depression have focused on average effects and the evidence is mixed. Moreover, the stress associated to this change might be alleviated on different forms. Older adults’ alcohol use has increased over the past decades and baby boomers have an increased alcohol use than prior generations (Dar, 2006; Calvo et al, 2020). Alcohol use among older adults might have a higher detrimental effect as they synthetized alcohol differently and is one of the leading causes of falls among older adults and had been associated to increased health and social problems (García-Esquinas et al, 2018; Dar, 2006; WHO, 2010). Thus, older adults are at higher risk from suffering negative consequences from alcohol use. There is mixed evidence about the effect of alcohol and mental health among older adults. Some studies suggest that alcohol use or moderate alcohol use could have a positive impact on mental health (Segura-Cardona et al, 2015). This study aimed to understand this association by exploring how the conditions that older adults bring to retirement and alcohol use affect the mental health of older adults, using role theory and life course theory. Because retirement is a developmental process that occurs in a particular context, and the effect of it might vary depending on particular factors.

Methods:The Health and Retirement study, a nationally representative study of people aged 50+, was used. All non-institutionalized participants who reported depressive symptoms at least two waves prior retirement and at least at one wave after retirement were included (N=11,164). Longitudinal generalized mixed models were performed to test the effect of retirement, alcohol use – drinks per day and binge drinking, and depressive symptoms among older adults, controlling by demographics.

Results: Results suggest that being retired was associated with decreased depressive symptoms (b=-0.04, p<0.05) and increased drinks per day (b=0.01, p<0.05) and binge drinking (b=0.11, p<0.05). Each additional drink per day (b=-0.11, p<0.05) and binge drinking (b=-0.07, p<0.05) lead to decreased depressive symptoms. Similarly, increased drinking or binge drinking were associated to decreased depressive symptoms.

Conclusions and implications: Regular drinkers might increase their drinking to occupy the additional free time that comes with retirement, to alleviate anxiety and feelings of loneliness as they lost their working roles and they might have lost relatives, which might increase the craving for alcohol. Given the prevalence of depression and alcohol use, and its detrimental effects among older adults. Further research needs to be done to understands the particularities of this group and to generate interventions focused on prevention.