Objective: This study aimed to assess whether changes in levels of financial strain are associated with changes in alcohol use and smoking among older adults.
Method: Multilevel analyses were conducted using longitudinal data from a randomly selected national sample of older adults (N = 2,352; 60% female). The data were collected in six waves during the period of 1992-2006. We estimated associations between within-person changes in levels of financial strain and the odds of engaging in heavy drinking and smoking, while also testing for the moderating effects of gender, education, and age.
Results: A direct association was observed between changes in levels of financial strain and the odds of heavy drinking, particularly among elderly men (odds ratio [OR] = 1.31) and those with low levels of education (OR = 1.27). A direct association between changes in levels of financial strain and the odds of smoking was also evident, particularly among the young-old (i.e., age 65 at baseline; OR = 1.44).
Conclusions: Exposure to financial strain places some groups of older adults at increased risk for unhealthy drinking and smoking. If the current global financial crisis leads to increases in experiences of financial strain among older adults, alcohol and smoking problems can also be expected to increase in this population.