elderly. The problem of alcohol and drug abuse at work is predicted to increase as the baby boomer cohort grows older, because this cohort had higher rates of substance use, including alcohol, than previous generations.
Of course, not all individuals with a history of alcohol abuse exhibit serious problems with drinking. A substantial number seem to be managing their lives while engaging in controlled drinking or repeating a pattern of abstinence and remission. There are few studies on effects of controlled drinking and the abstinence-remission pattern of drinking on health and function of older adults, including older workers. It is likely that many middle-aged and older adults continue to function well enough to sustain employment. Researchers point out that the currently used criteria for alcohol or substance abuse may not be sensitive enough to screen older adults who exhibit a pattern of symptoms different from those exhibited by younger drinkers. For example, many older workers may be asymptomatic cases of alcoholism. Also, a different intervention approach may be needed to help older workers who have been drinking for decades. An important research direction is to explore the relation between job stressors and alcohol abuse, for example, whether job stressors triggers alcohol abuse among abstaining individuals. Also, there is a great need to better understand later life onset of alcoholism (Liberto and Oslin, 1995).
Another underevaluated area for the future research is problems associated with medication abuse among older women. There are few studies on alcoholic women, since the prevalence of alcoholism is lower in women across all age groups. However, older women are more problematic users of prescribed psychoactive drugs than men, and a prevailing comorbidity among older women alcohol abusers is depressive disorder (Gomberg, 1995).
Among the major psychological characteristics of individuals are their personality or psychological adjustment and their mental (or cognitive) functioning. Relatively little change with age has been found in the level of most personality traits (see Ryff, Kwan, and Singer, 2001, and Warr, 1994, for reviews). However, increased age has been found to be associated with reports of greater happiness, less negative affect, reduced amounts of occupational stress (e.g., Mroczek and Kolarz, 1998), and lower levels of depression and anxiety (e.g., Christensen et al., 1999; Jorm, 2000). At least one study has also reported that older workers have slightly higher levels of occupational well-being than younger workers (Warr, 1992). This latter trend is illustrated in Figure 5-1. The average ratings from the question-