Patterns and Predictors of Late-Life Drinking Trajectories: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study

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This study examines the extent of group-level and intra-individual decline in alcohol consumption among adults as they traverse a 10-year interval spanning late-middle to early-old age. Further, it identifies key baseline predictors of these adults' 10-year drinking trajectories. Community residents (n = 1,291; age 55 to 65 years at baseline) were assessed at 4 points over a 10-year interval on demographic and health characteristics, coping responses, social context, and alcohol consumption. Descriptive cross-wave statistics, and multilevel regression analyses, indicated that in the sample overall, participants' 10-year patterns of alcohol consumption were relatively stable. However, men's patterns, and those of individuals drinking beyond recommended alcohol consumption guidelines at baseline, were more variable and showed steeper rates of decline, than did those of women and individuals drinking within recommended levels. Contrary to expectation baseline use of substances to reduce tension and heavier reliance on avoidance coping predicted faster rate of decline in alcohol consumption. Post hoc prospective mediation analyses suggested that this may have occurred because these and other baseline predictors heighten risk of developing new health problems which, in turn, motivate reduced alcohol consumption.

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