Risky Alcohol Consumption Can Increase at Time of Retirement

Press Release of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and the University of Turku, Finland, on 30 March 2017

Every tenth employee increases their alcohol consumption to risky levels at the time of retirement from full-time employment. However, the increase seems to be temporary as risky drinking often decreases during the retirement. For most pensioners, alcohol consumption remains below the risk levels before and after retirement. The results of the new Finnish study were published in the esteemed Addiction journal. 

Of retiring employees, 12 percent increased their risky drinking at the time of retirement. However, for most people, there was no change in risky level alcohol consumption around the time of retirement: 81 percent sustained healthy drinking during the follow-up, and in 7 percent of the participants risky drinking was constant, although they experienced a slow decline in risky level alcohol consumption after retirement. In the study, the levels for risky drinking were 24 units per week for men and 16 units for women, or passing out due to extreme alcohol consumption. 

– Increase in risky drinking was more common in smokers, men and those who reported depression, says Senior Researcher, Docent Jaana Halonen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. These are known risk factors for substantial alcohol use. 

Retirement is a major transition in life and, in the light of these results, it also involves a risk of adopting an unhealthy lifestyle. 

– As baby boomers retire, approximately 70,000 Finns retire each year, so it is a significant social phenomenon. The increase in free time and the changes in the social networks related to retirement can have either adverse or positive effects on public health, says Academy Research Fellow, Docent Sari Stenholm from the University of Turku. 

– Occupational health care and employers could develop operational strategies that could prepare employees for retirement and the changes it can cause. This way, unhealthy changes in lifestyle could be prevented, suggests Jaana Halonen. 

Nearly 6,000 Employees from Public Sector Participated in the Study 

The study followed 5,800 employees who participated in the Finnish Public Sector (FPS) study and had retired due to old-age between 2000 and 2011. Each participant answered questions on alcohol consumption before and after retirement.  

The research was conducted as a collaboration between the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, University of Turku, University of Helsinki, University College London and Harvard University. The research was funded by the Academy of Finland, NordForsk, Ministry of Education and Culture, and Juho Vainio Foundation. 

More information:

Senior Researcher, Docent Jaana Halonen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 43 824 4264, jaana.halonen[at]ttl.fi  

Academy Research Fellow, Docent Sari Stenholm, University of Turku, tel. +358 50 465 1745, sari.stenholm[at]utu.fi 

Publication: Halonen JI, Stenholm S, Pulakka A, Kawachi I, Aalto V, Pentti J, Lallukka T, Virtanen M, Vahtera J, Kivimäki M. Trajectories of risky drinking around the time of statutory retirement: a longitudinal latent class analysis. Addiction. 2017 Mar 3. doi: 10.1111/add.13811. [Epub ahead of print] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13811/epdf 

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The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) researches, develops and specializes in well-being at work. It promotes occupational health and safety and the well-being of workers. It is an independent institution under public law, working under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It has five regional offices, and its headquarters are in Helsinki. The number of personnel is about 500.

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The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Työterveyslaitos) researches, develops and specializes in well-being at work. It promotes occupational health and safety and the well-being of workers. It is an independent institution under public law, working under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It has five regional offices, and its headquarters are in Helsinki. It employs about 560 people.