Interesting Research About: MARRIAGE & ALCOHOL

DENVER — Marriage and divorce impact alcohol consumption for men and women, who influence each other’s drinking patterns or decision not to drink in different ways, according to research presented this week at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting. Long-term marriage appears to curb men’s drinking, but it is associated with slightly higher levels of alcohol use by women, compared with women who are divorced.

Those are among the findings of a longitudinal study on alcohol and relationships by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers and University of Texas at Austin.

One of the most interesting questions is why marriage and divorce impact men’s alcohol consumption differently than they do women’s, said lead researcher Corinne Reczek, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati and lead author.

Using a combination of surveys and in-depth interviews, researchers found that men who are married consume less alcohol than single, divorced and widowed men. The researchers note that the men’s wives’ lower levels of drinking tend to curb the men’s consumption. But men were much more likely to turn to alcohol after a divorce.

In what Reczek called a surprise, the married women surveyed consumed more drinks than long-term divorced or recently widowed women, possibly because they lived with men who drank.

It is not that married women drink at high levels, she explained, but that alcohol consumption declines when women divorce. Reczek said women in the study talked about husbands who introduced them to alcohol when they got married. “They do not drink as much if they are not with a husband who likes to drink. And divorced, they lost the influence of a husband who drank.”

In background information for the study, the researchers wrote that “studies consistently show that the married report lower levels of alcohol use than the nonmarried.” But those studies never noted differences within marriage status, such as duration or whether a partner was previously married. And none have explained the underpinnings of a connection between marriage and alcohol.

Quantifying the difference

To try to fill those gaps, Reczek said she and colleagues looked at more than 5,000 records from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to clarify how marital status relates to alcohol use. Then they conducted in-depth interviews with 120 married, divorced, widowed and never-married men and women to look at the social underpinnings of the survey trends. By Lois M. Collins, Deseret News