Winding down and boozing up: The complex link between retirement and alcohol misuse

Peter A. Bamberger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Concerns about the increasing prevalence of alcohol misuse among older adults and its concomitant social and economic costs have recently prompted a spurt of research. Much of this research has either considered or focused upon retirement as a key etiological factor. Unfortunately, however, the findings regarding the role of retirement as a factor precipitating or exacerbating older adult alcohol misuse are largely equivocal. Indeed, just as many studies suggest a positive retirement-drinking relationship as those suggesting an inverse or null relationship. In this article, I review this body of research, paying particular attention to the conceptual and methodological limitations plaguing many of the studies and likely explaining many of the inconsistencies. I also point out how the changing nature and timing of retirement demands a revision of the way in which we think about the retirement-drinking relationship, with a need to focus on how individual differences interact with situations and conditions experienced throughout the course of the retirement process (beginning before individuals leave their career job) to affect drinking behavior. I conclude the article by reviewing some of the findings regarding the efficacy of alternative prevention and treatment interventions that may be used to address this problem, and their implications for employers, unions, and policy makers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-111
Number of pages20
JournalWork, Aging and Retirement
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015


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