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Correlates and Consequences of Substance Use Problems

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Several studies have sought to identify factors that are related to increased vulnerability to substance misuse and the maintenance of problematic substance use patterns in later life. Factors such as gender, medical comorbidity, history of past use, and social and family environment are all correlated with problematic substance use. Longitudinal work, for instance, suggests that older men tend to drink greater quantities of alcohol than women and are more likely to have alcohol-related problems (Moore et al. 2005). Older men also are more likely to have had a longer history of problem drinking (D'Archangelo 1993). The relationship between certain factors and alcohol abuse also may vary across genders; among alcohol abusers, women are more likely to have been married to a problem drinker, to report negative life events and ongoing difficulties with spouses and other family members, and to have had a history of depression than their male counterparts (Brennan and Moos 1990; Gomberg 2003). Furthermore, increases in free time coupled with a reduction in role obligations may have a large impact on problem drinking in older women (Wilsnack and Wilsnack 1995). Indeed, age-related losses in social, physical, and occupational/role domains, such as widowhood, the death of family and friends, reduced physical function, and retirement, help contribute to the adoption or maintenance of abusive drinking patterns in later life among men and women (Blow 1998).

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