The impact of retirement on the drinking patterns of older adults: a review

Addict Behav. 2012 May;37(5):587-95. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2012.01.022. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


Objective: Due to the aging of the population, there is renewed focus on the public health issues of middle-aged and older adults. One area of such focus is unhealthy drinking, and researchers seek to understand the unique developmental risk and protective factors among those entering older adulthood. Retirement has been hypothesized as a contributing factor in the onset and maintenance of unhealthy drinking in late life. This review describes the relevant theories and critically reviews empirical evidence that explores the relationship between alcohol and retirement drawn from both the industrial and organizational psychology and substance misuse literatures.

Method: Using four research databases, thirteen studies published in the last 25years that investigated the relationship of retirement and alcohol use and met specific selection criteria were reviewed.

Results: The literature suggests that retirement may not have a strong direct impact on drinking behaviors or problems, but attributes of the process (e.g. retirement voluntariness) of transition to retirement and individual attributes, such as having a history of problem drinking, may facilitate or inhibit drinking.

Conclusions: Future research should delve into the social context of drinking in retirement with a goal of understanding the aspects and conditions of retirement that increase risk of alcohol problems. Investigation should also examine heterogeneity in retirement drinking patterns with a goal of identifying subpopulations that are at greater risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retirement / psychology*
  • Retirement / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology