Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)


Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Mark B Sobell

Second Advisor

Linda C Sobell

Third Advisor

Christian DeLucia


alcohol consumption, AUDIT-C, coping, mediation, older adults, perceived stress


Estimates suggest that 6% of adults aged 65 years and older reported binge drinking in the past month and 2.2% reported heavy drinking. This dissertation investigates the associations between stress, coping, and alcohol consumption specifically in older adults. The literature on the direct relationship between stress and drinking in older adults has yielded inconsistent results (i.e., some produced positive associations, others yielded negative or nonsignificant relations). Previous findings for the relationship between various types of coping and drinking in older adults have yielded more consistent results, with avoidant coping, alcohol outcome expectancy, and/or drinking to cope generally contributing to alcohol use either independently or in combination. The strengths and limitations of currently used alcohol screening instruments with older adults (e.g., Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test-Geriatric Version, CAGE Questionnaire, and Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) are also reviewed. Based on the literature, it was hypothesized that (a) lowering the definition of binge drinking to make it more age-sensitive to older adults would identify more individuals drinking at at-risk levels, (b) perceived stress, coping, and alcohol consumption would correlate with each other, and (c) coping would mediate the association between perceived stress and alcohol consumption. The study's sample consisted of 60 independent-living older adults (65 years of age and older), most of whom were White, female, and well educated. The results of this study only partially supported the hypotheses. Specifically, there was no clinically meaningful difference when the definition of binge drinking was lowered to a more age-specific classification on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test - Consumption measure. Perceived stress and both task- and avoidant-focused coping were correlated, but perceived stress and alcohol consumption were not significantly correlated, nor were either task- or avoidant-focused coping and alcohol consumption correlated. Finally, neither task- nor avoidant-focused coping mediated the relationship between perceived stress and alcohol consumption. Limitations of the present study are discussed.

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