Heavy drinking mixes with marriage if both partners are drinkers
Washington – A new study has revealed that couples where only one spouse was a heavy drinker had a much higher divorce rate than other couples.
However, researchers at the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), who followed 634 couples from the time of their weddings through the first nine years of marriage, found that if both spouses were heavy drinkers the divorce rate was the same as for couples where neither were heavy drinkers.
“Our results indicate that it is the difference between the couple’s drinking habits, rather than the drinking itself, that leads to marital dissatisfaction, separation and divorce,” Kenneth Leonard, PhD, RIA director and lead author of the study, said.
Over the course of the nine-year study, nearly 50 percent of couples where only one partner drank more heavily wound up divorcing, while the divorce rates for other couples was only 30 percent.
Leonard said that this research provides solid evidence to bolster the commonplace notion that heavy drinking by one partner can lead to divorce. Alhough some people might think that’s a likely outcome, there was surprisingly little data to back up that claim until now.
The surprising outcome was that the divorce rate for two heavy drinkers was no worse than for two non-heavy drinkers.
Leonard said heavy drinking spouses may be more tolerant of negative experiences related to alcohol due to their own drinking habits, but he cautioned that this does not mean other aspects of family life are unimpaired. While two heavy drinkers may not divorce, they may create a particularly bad climate for their children.
The researchers also found a slightly higher divorce rate in cases when the heavy drinker was the wife, rather than the husband.
The study will be published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviours.