Substance-use coping and self-rated health among US middle-aged and older adults

Pia M. Mauro, Sarah L. Canham, Silvia S. Martins, Adam P. Spira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The prevalence of alcohol, drug, and tobacco use among US middle-aged and older adults is increasing. A subset of this population uses substances to cope with stress, but the characteristics of these individuals, and the association between substance-use coping and health outcomes remain unclear. We identified correlates of substance-use coping and measured its association with self-rated health in a community-based sample of adults aged 54-99 in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). In the 2008 HRS, 1351 participants reported their frequency of prescription/other drug-, alcohol-, and cigarette-use coping with stress and reported self-rated health (excellent/very good, good, or fair/poor); 1201 of these participants also reported self-rated health in 2010. One in six participants frequently used substances to cope. The oldest participants were least likely to engage in frequent alcohol-use coping. Those with elevated depressive symptoms were more likely to frequently engage in cigarette- and prescription/other drug-use coping. In multivariable-adjusted analyses, participants who frequently used cigarettes (compared to participants who infrequently used cigarettes) to cope had 2.7 times (95% CI=1.1-6.7) the odds of poor (vs. excellent) self-rated health. Relative to participants who infrequently used prescription/other drugs to cope, participants who frequently used prescription/other drugs to cope had 2.4 times (95% CI=1.1-5.1) the odds of reporting poor self-rated health. The association between prescription/other drug-use coping in 2008 and self-rated health in 2010 was statistically significant (relative OR=3.5, 95% CI=1.7-7.2). Participants engaging in substance-use coping likely have particular demographic and clinical characteristics. Interventions to reduce substance-use coping may prevent adverse health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-100
Number of pages5
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Coping
  • Older adults
  • Self-rated health
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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