Washington: During financially hard times, older people may turn to alcohol or smoking to de-stress themselves.

Based on 2,300 older Americans, the study found that some, particularly those with less education, were at risk of drinking if their finances went into a tailspin.

The same correlation was seen in terms of smoking, especially among relatively younger study participants (aged 65 at the study's start), the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reports.

The findings do not prove that financial strain, per se, was the reason for the changed drinking and smoking habits. But it is known that some people use alcohol and cigarettes as a way of coping with stress, says lead researcher Benjamin A. Shaw, of the State University of New York.

"When you have a stressor that's not very controllable, people may focus on something to help control their emotional response to the stressor," Shaw says, according to a State University statement.

And financial woes may be particularly stressful for older adults, he notes. "They are out of the workforce, and they might feel like they have less time to recover or generally have less control over their financial situation," Shaw says.

The older adults in the study were surveyed periodically between 1992 and 2006, when the world was in stronger financial shape than it is now.

The ongoing financial crisis, coupled with the aging population, means the number of older adults facing money problems will probably only grow, Shaw's team says.

Overall, 16 percent of study participants reported increasing financial strain over the study period. Three percent reported increases in heavy drinking (more than 30 drinks a month), and one percent said they'd started smoking more.