People who experience negative life events report more heavy alcohol consumption compared with people without these experiences, but little is known about patterns of change within this group. This study aims to identify trajectories of heavy alcohol consumption before and after experiencing either divorce, or severe illness or death in the family. Furthermore, the aim is to examine characteristics of individuals belonging to each trajectory.
Longitudinal study of public sector employees from the Finnish Retirement and Aging Study with up to 5 years of annual follow-ups (n=6783; eligible sample n=1393). Divorce and severe illness or death in the family represented negative life events. Heavy alcohol consumption was categorised as >14 units/week.
Based on latent trajectory analysis, three trajectories of heavy drinking were identified both for divorce and for severe illness or death in the family: ‘No heavy drinking’ (82% illness/death, 75% divorce), ‘Constant heavy drinking’ (10% illness/death, 13% divorce) and ‘Decreasing heavy drinking’ (7% illness/death, 12% divorce). Constant heavy drinkers surrounding illness or death in the family were more likely to be men, report depression and anxiety and to smoke than those with no heavy drinking. Constant heavy drinkers surrounding divorce were also more likely to be men and to report depression compared with those with no heavy drinking.
Most older workers who experience divorce or severe illness or death in the family have stable drinking patterns regarding heavy alcohol consumption, that is, most do not initiate or stop heavy drinking.