Have your drinking habits changed in retirement?

Apr 18, 2023
Source: Getty

Content Warning: this article deals with alcoholism that may be triggering for some readers.

The incidence of alcohol abuse among seniors is quite surprising. I wasn’t aware of how problematic this was until I did a bit of research.

I moved to Florida from California in 2019 to help take care of my partner’s mother. I was accustomed to being around seniors from my seventeen years of volunteer work at the Culver City Senior Center. But the senior centre was a mixed demographics of all types of people. Some had money, some didn’t. Many were relying upon government assistance to get by.

Money was scarce for many of them.

We moved into a nice suburb of Naples, Florida, and the demographic was very different from where I came from. It’s been a bit of a shock.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people drink down here. I’m not a big drinker for many reasons, but it seems like many I know party frequently. It reminds me of my college days when alcohol was new and exciting, and having a hangover was a badge of honour.

Did you know that alcohol addiction is rampant in many retirement communities? Within these places, it is estimated that 62 per cent of people consume alcohol, with 13 per cent being considered heavy drinkers. In fact, among retirees, alcoholism is the most common form of substance abuse.


There are many reasons why retirees drink more. One of the main reasons is boredom. 

It’s hard for many to adjust to retirement because they are accustomed to their jobs defining who they are. Upon retirement, often there is a vacuum. 

Who am I now? How important am I without my impressive job title, expense account, and other things I have relied upon to define myself?

I retired in 2003 so I have had twenty years of adjusting. But I have never been one to rely upon alcohol to enable me to have a good time. Diet Coke does that. I enjoy a glass of wine when socialising, but if I had to give it up, it wouldn’t be a big deal for me.

But for many people, alcohol often gives them an excuse to loosen up, and become the type of person they would like to be. 

Here are some other additional reasons drinking escalates during retirement.

Marital stress

Many couples are forced to reassess their relationship upon retirement. Most are used to spending hours away from the home, and now they are thrusting together, do they get along? Is this the person I used to know?

Social pressure

How many of us have been offered a drink at a party or social gathering? It’s assumed you are going to have a cocktail. If you don’t drink, you are an anomaly.

Financial problems

Without an income, many retirees have to reassess their financial stability. Sometimes people escape through alcohol to avoid the monetary problems they are experiencing.

Previous trauma

Psychological problems do not always go away unless they are properly addressed. Sometimes drinking postpones the discomfort of dealing with personal issues.

Lack of purpose

We all need a sense of purpose when we retire. If people don’t know how to find that, at times they resort to alcohol to assuage their boredom.


Without the ego boost that comes from working, sometimes depression can result in the desire to drink to feel elated. Once the drink wears off, the problems can return.

Finding meaning, value, and friendship in retirement

Retirement can be a significant time of transition for many over 60s and while there are those who look forward to this stage of life, the end of a long and fulfilling career can leave some feeling lost and uncertain about their purpose in life.

However, one’s golden years can also present an opportunity to rediscover meaning and purpose and one way to do this is through hobbies. And because humans are social beings, hard-wired for connection it’s equally important that we build friendships.


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Are you or someone you love more dependent on alcohol since you've retired? What does drinking mean to you?

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