The Washington Post

Drinking varies with marital status, study finds

Another interesting paper about drinking emerged from the American Sociological Association meeting in Denver earlier this week. On Monday I wrote about research presented there that found college students who engage in binge drinking are happier than their non-bingeing peers.

Now let’s fast-forward past college to look at how people’s drinking habits may be affected by their marital status.

Researchers led by Corinne Reczek at the University of Cincinnati studied data for 5,305 people  from a large Wisconsin database for which participants were surveyed four times between 1957 (when they were seniors in high school) and 2004 about, among other things, their marital status and their alcohol use. The researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with 120 participants, half of them partners in long-term (lasting seven years or more) marriages, the other half of varied marital statuses.

The introduction notes that previous studies examining differences in drinking behaviors between married and unmarried people have treated the unmarried group as one big blob (my term, not the study’s); a major contribution of the new paper, which is not yet published, is that it evaluates four categories of people within the larger group of unmarrieds: never married, widowed, recently divorced and “continuously” divorced. That allowed the researchers to observe changes in drinking behaviors as they relate to people’s transitions between various marital states.

The study’s chief findings:Being married tended to temper husbands’ drinking, as men reported cutting back on alcohol consumption once they were wed, but influenced women in the opposite direction, as light-drinking ladies apparently adopted their heavier-drinking husbands’ drinking habits. Married men drank less than any other category of men, while married women drank more than other women. And while men tended to increase their alcohol consumption after divorce, women tended to drink less after their marriages dissolved.

Do you think your drinking habits have been shaped by those of your spouse? Has your alcohol consumption changed according to your marital status?


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