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Keywords:

  • Pain;
  • Alcohol;
  • Drinking Problems;
  • Older Adults

Abstract

Objective.  To determine associations between older adults' baseline painful medical conditions and their 10-year drinking behavior, and whether personal and life context characteristics moderate these associations.

Methods.  At baseline, then, 1, 4, and 10 years later, late-middle-aged community residents (M = 61 years; N = 1,291) were surveyed regarding their painful medical conditions, use of alcohol, and personal and life context characteristics. Latent growth modeling was used to determine concurrent and prospective relationships between painful medical conditions and 10-year drinking behavior, and moderating effects of personal and life context characteristics on these relationships.

Results.  At baseline, individuals reporting more numerous painful medical conditions consumed alcohol less frequently, but had more frequent drinking problems, than did individuals with fewer such conditions. Being female and having more interpersonal social resources strengthened the association between painful medical conditions and less ethanol consumed. For men more so than women, more numerous painful medical conditions were associated with more frequent drinking problems. Baseline painful medical conditions alone had no prospective effect on 10-year change in drinking behavior, but being older and having more interpersonal social resources made it more likely that baseline painful medical conditions would predict decline over time in frequency of alcohol consumption and drinking problems.

Conclusions.  Late-middle-aged individuals who have more numerous painful medical conditions reduce alcohol consumption but nonetheless remain at risk for more frequent drinking problems. Gender, age, and interpersonal social resources moderate the influence of painful medical conditions on late-life alcohol use. These results imply that older individuals with pain are at little immediate or long-term risk for increased alcohol consumption, but clinicians should remain alert to drinking problems among their older pain patients, especially men.