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Is relationship status related to alcohol abuse?

Have you ever wondered if your relationship status impacts on how much alcohol you consume? A new study has revealed what is in fact a complex correlation between marital status and alcohol consumption, investigating the differences in drinking behaviours between the never-married, the divorced, widowed and, of course, the married.

The good news for single women is that marriage, it seems, drives many women to hit the bottle. But not because they’re unhappy. Rather, the study found that married women are influenced by their husband’s alcohol consumption, with men tending to drink more than women.

However, the news isn’t so good for divorced men, who were found to be at particularly high risk of alcohol abuse.

The study, which is being presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver, Colorado, is the first to look at alcohol use among different types of unmarried people.

Sociologists from the University of Cincinnati, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University and the University of Texas at Austin looked at longitudinal data from 5,305 men and women from Wisconsin who answered questionnaires about alcohol use in 1993 and then again 2004.

The participants reported how many drinks they consumed in a month and whether they had any history of drinking problems. The researchers combined this quantitative data with 120 qualitative in-depth interviews of never-married, married, divorced and widowed men and women conducted over the past decade.

Whilst previous studies have consistently shown that married people drink less than singles, the new study confirmed this relationship in men but found married women in fact drink more on average than women who were divorced, widowed or never married.

The study also showed that, when it comes to their drinking patterns, men and women respond differently to divorce. Recently divorced men drank significantly more than men in long-terms marriages, while the amount of alcohol consumed by women fell sharply after the break down of a marriage.

The in-depth interviews held as part of the investigation shed some light on these drinking patterns. Researchers were therefore able to conclude that drinking habits during marriage are influenced by spouse behaviour. before and after marriage, however, and this influence is removed, suggesting the drinking patterns of single men and women are largely to do with their individual coping mechanisms.

“Our qualitative findings suggest that being married to a man who is more likely to drink creates a new social environment that may promote drinking among women,” lead researcher Corinne Reczek told LiveScience.

When it comes to divorce, three quarters of the men involved in the study said that the stress and pain of their marriage break down drove them to hit the bottle. Conversely, three quarters of divorced women said they drank less following the dissolution of their marriage because they were consumed by depression, and because they were no longer influenced by their ex’s drinking patterns.

“The transition to divorce was discussed in relation to depression symptoms, which resulted in abstaining from both food and alcohol,” the authors wrote in the study. “For most, alcohol was absent from their discussions of divorce. Instead, weight loss and changes in diet were a large component of how women described transitioning to divorce.”

The researchers hope their study might help focus resources on those most at risk of alcohol misuse and the related health consequences.

What about you? Do your alcohol patterns change with your relationship status?

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About the Author

Lizzy has more than ten years’ experience in the print and digital publishing arena and is the Editor at Single File. Having moved from the UK to Australia in 2008, Lizzy has worked for a number of leading publishers in Sydney and has particular expertise in the health, wellness and travel markets. If you have any questions for Lizzy, you can send them across by email to

One Response to Is relationship status related to alcohol abuse?

  1. Hey Singlefile,
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