Psychological Factors Associated with Risky Drinking in Later Life

Open Access
Author:
Wilson, Tomorrow Danielle
Graduate Program:
Biobehavioral Health
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
December 04, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Linda Ann Wray, Dissertation Advisor
  • Linda Ann Wray, Committee Chair
  • Robert J Turrisi, Committee Member
  • Laura Klein, Committee Member
  • Lisa Ann Kitko, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • Alcohol use
  • older adults
  • stress
  • alcohol outcome expectancies
  • drinking norms
  • drinking motives
  • late life
Abstract:
Studies indicate older adults are particularly at risk for negative effects of risky drinking: Risky drinking may cause more physical and mental health problems for older adults than younger. For example, age-related decreased functioning of the kidneys and liver may be compounded by alcohol use; and risky drinking in older adults is linked to very high rates of major depression in the prior year. Although theory-based psychological factors such as increased perceived stress, positive alcohol outcome expectancies, injunctive drinking norms, and drinking to cope motives are associated with risky drinking in younger populations, there is a dearth of literature examining the relationships between those psychological factors and risky drinking behaviors in older adults. This dissertation examined the associations between perceived stress, positive alcohol outcome expectancies, injunctive drinking norms, drinking to cope motives, and risky alcohol use [i.e., heavy drinking (HD) and heavy episodic drinking (HED)] in a sample of older males and females. Aim 1 focused on the associations between psychological constructs and risky drinking behaviors. Aim 2 examined whether there are sex differences in the relationships between psychological constructs and risky drinking behaviors. A sample of 97 adults aged 65 and older (27 males, 70 females) completed a series of surveys on perceived stress, positive alcohol outcome expectancies, injunctive drinking norms, drinking to cope motives, and risky drinking behavior. Hypotheses for both aims were tested using path analysis, with the latter aim using multiple group analyses. Aim 1 analyses revealed partially support for all of the hypotheses. Only feeling like difficulties were piling up so high they could not be overcome emerged as being positively associated with risky drinking (i.e., HED). For positive alcohol outcome expectancies, feeling more energetic and enjoying the buzz when drinking were positively associated with HD and HED, respectively. Of the IDNs reference groups, only the friends group was positively associated with HD and HED. Regarding drinking to cope motives, drinking because it helps when feeling depressed or nervous was the only motive positively with risky drinking (i.e., HED). The hypotheses for injunctive drinking norms were not supported. Lastly, analyses for Aim 2 also revealed partial support for the positive alcohol outcome expectancy hypothesis. There were significant sex differences only in the positive association between enjoying the buzz while drinking and HED, with the association being stronger in males than females. Future work should examine possible mediators of the relationships between perceived stress, positive alcohol outcome expectancies, injunctive drinking norms, drinking to cope motives, and risky drinking behavior. Also, examine how specific facets of stress and stressors (e.g., chronicity and controllability) affect daily drinking behavior.