JAN 14, 2015 12:00 AM PST

Seniors Are Substance Abusers under Tense Conditions

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
Nearly three million older Americans are substance abusers, and this may approach six million by 2020. Alcohol abuse still predominates, but drugs are a growing problem.

Drs. Peter A. Bamberger of Tel Aviv University and Samuel B. Bacharach of Cornell University, writing in inaugural issue of the Journal of Work, Aging and Retirement, say that retirement itself does not lead to substance abuse, but that traumas attendant on retirement -- declining health, deaths of loved ones and financial pressure -- are the causes.

The comprehensive ten-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was conducted by Prof. Peter A. Bamberger of TAU's Faculty of Management and Cornell University's Smithers Institute, and Prof. Samuel B. Bacharach of Cornell University. The two also co-authored Retirement and the Hidden Epidemic (Oxford University Press, 2014), a layman's summary of their many studies on the subject.

According to the study, older adults often lack the skills required to cope with the sudden vacuum produced by retirement as well as events common to later life - such as deteriorating health and the death of spouses and friends. The research also pointed to the impact of circumstances and conditions of retirement on feelings of depression, purposelessness and financial strain, which are known to lead to substance abuse.

"We found that the conditions under which people retired, whether they were pushed into it or it was something expected and planned for, had great bearing on alcohol and drug habits," said Dr. Bamberger. "The worst combination we found was among people who took early retirement from jobs they loved, because their companies were going under. Among all groups studied, this one exhibited the highest incidence of substance abuse."

The study, which sampled 1,200 blue collar workers, ages 52 to 75, found that traumas related to retirement can have a cascade effect, with one problem aggravating another until the retiree turns to substance abuse. "Financial strains and marital strains elicited problems with sleep. This in particular explained much of males' abuse of alcohol," Dr. Bamberger said.

Much can be done to prevent retirees from bottoming out, according to the study, including screening and brief interventions aimed at identifying behavioral changes that could lead to substance abuse. "Sometimes awareness alone is enough to bring about positive change," said Bamberger. "Even short phone calls or brief Internet-based feedback can be so instrumental. The other way of reversing this trend is to provide ways of coping with the stresses of retirement. Retirement groups and mentors are often able to pick up on signs of deterioration before they become a problem."

Bamberger is currently working on a new NIH-sponsored study examining the alcohol-related consequences of the college-to-work transition among younger people.
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
You May Also Like
DEC 21, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Mutagens May Be Having a Bigger Effect Than We Knew
DEC 21, 2020
Mutagens May Be Having a Bigger Effect Than We Knew
New research has suggested that our DNA is more susceptible to mutagenic influences than we've appreciated. While organi ...
DEC 24, 2020
Microbiology
A New, Infectious Strain of SARS-CoV-2 Emerges
DEC 24, 2020
A New, Infectious Strain of SARS-CoV-2 Emerges
The UK recently reported that it had detected a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic virus, which causes COVID-19. Thi ...
DEC 28, 2020
Immunology
What Happens When Your Immune System Works Against You?!
DEC 28, 2020
What Happens When Your Immune System Works Against You?!
Our immune system is our army against any molecule that wants to invade our bodies like viruses, bacteria, and cancer. I ...
DEC 29, 2020
Microbiology
How CRISPR Can Help Create a Vaccine for a Common Parasite
DEC 29, 2020
How CRISPR Can Help Create a Vaccine for a Common Parasite
The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is thought to infect a third of the people on the planet as well as a wide range of other ...
DEC 31, 2020
Immunology
Arthritis Medication Resolves Previously Untreatable Skin Condition
DEC 31, 2020
Arthritis Medication Resolves Previously Untreatable Skin Condition
Bumpy, inflamed, ring-shaped lesions on the skin—granuloma annulare (GA) is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition ...
JAN 04, 2021
Microbiology
Some Microbes Could Help Treat Type 2 Diabetes
JAN 04, 2021
Some Microbes Could Help Treat Type 2 Diabetes
The microbial community in our gastrointestinal tract has been shown to have a significant impact on our health and well ...
Loading Comments...