September 30, 2021

Researchers at the School of Social Work's Social Development Research Group were recently awarded $2.5 million over five years to study the role of alcohol, social environments and preventive intervention in midlife adults aged 40 to 60.

The new study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, is led by Rick Kosterman and Marina Epstein, both with SDRG. The researchers will explore ways to better understand the unique health risks for those in midlife, the role of current and past alcohol use in these risks, and implications for interventions to address public health priorities for adults new to this age group. 

Midlife is a time when people generally experience major life transitions. These changes can be positive for some individuals, but many often experience emotional upheaval, declines in physical health, or undue stress from adapting to new social roles. Little is known about how the transition to midlife may be different for GenX adults — individuals currently in their 40s and 50s. This group is more diverse than previous generations demographically as well as in their family formation, education and career paths. Rising rates of alcohol misuse in new midlife cohorts have been implicated as a factor in health declines and “deaths of despair,” underscoring the need for effective prevention efforts.

Researchers will use data from an existing diverse study cohort that has been followed longitudinally as part of the Seattle Social Development Project as well as collect new data from the SSDP sample. Since the age of 10, SSDP participants — now in midlife — have been interviewed frequently and asked about their alcohol and other substance use, mental and physical health, and their school, work, community and civic life. Over the years, SSDP has maintained its focus on social and neighborhood factors that can be targeted effectively with preventive interventions to reduce health risks and disparities as adults age. 

For more than 40 years, researchers at the Social Development Research Group have sought to understand and promote healthy behaviors and positive social development among diverse populations. Its survey division specializes in longitudinal studies and data collection for investigators and healthcare professionals around the country.