Major life changes may play a causative role in health through lifestyle factors, such as alcohol. A study examined the impact of stressful life events on heavy alcohol consumption among French adults.
The study used trajectories of excessive alcohol consumption in 20,625 employees of the French national gas and electricity company for up to 5 years before and 5 years after an event, with annual measurements from 1992.
For women, excessive alcohol use increased before important purchase (p=0.021), children leaving home (p<0.001), and death of loved ones (p=0.03), and decreased before widowhood (p=0.015); in the year straddling the event, increased consumption was observed for important purchase (p=0.018) and retirement (p=0.002); at the time of the event, consumption decreased for marriage (p=0.002), divorce, widowhood, and death of loved one (all p<0.001), and increased for retirement (p=0.035).
For men, heavy alcohol consumption increased in the years up to and surrounding the death of loved ones, retirement, and important purchase (all p<0.001), and decreased after (all p<0.001, except death of loved one: p=0.006); at the time of the event, consumption decreased for all events except for children leaving home and retirement, where researchers observed an increase (all p<0.001). For women and men, heavy alcohol consumption decreased prior to marriage and divorce and increased after (all p<0.001, except for women and marriage: p=0.01).
The authors state that stressful life events promote healthy and unhealthy alcohol consumption. Certain events impact alcohol intake temporarily while others have longer-term implications. The argue that future research should disentangle women’s and men’s distinct perceptions of events over time.
Source: The Impact of Stressful Life Events on Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the French Population: Findings from the GAZEL Cohort Study. Tamers SL, Okechukwu C, Bohl AA, Guéguen A, Goldberg M, Zins M. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014 Jan 24.