New research indicates that financial stress may be compelling certain groups of elderly to drink and smoke more while simultaneously encouraging other groups to drink and smoke less.
The study found that 16% of older Americans experienced increasing amounts of financial strain over a period of 14 years.
During this time, older men experiencing financial duress were 30% more likely to increase their drinking frequency, whereas older women experiencing money problems were 20% more likely to decrease their drinking frequency.
When it comes to smoking, the study found that, in the presence of financial trouble, a person's age and level of education were indicators of whether they would alter their habits. The older and more educated a person was, the less likely they were to smoke in response to money problems.
The study authors, from State University of New York at Albany, feel that the elderly population's varied responses to financial strain can be attributed, in part, to how available other methods of coping are to them.
For example, social support is commonly cited as one of the most effective ways of dealing with stressors of all sorts. Thus, elderly people who do not have access to a strong social network may turn to alcohol or tobacco to help them handle their money woes.
Differences in traditional gender roles may also play a part. The image of the traditional male breadwinner could be causing older men to experience more stress in response to financial trouble.
As the number of elderly people increases and the global recession continues, it can be safely anticipated that rates of drinking and smoking among older people will continue to climb.