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American Sociological Association, Published August 26 2012

Hot topic: Study examines the relationship between marriage and alcohol

DENVER – Men are more likely than women to turn to drinking after divorce, but married men are less likely to drink than their single counterparts, a new study shows.

New research examining relationships and the use of alcohol finds that while a long-term marriage appears to curb men’s drinking, it’s associated with a slightly higher level of alcohol use among women.

Based on survey data and interviews, married men reported consuming the lowest number of drinks, compared with single, divorced, and widowed men. That’s in part because of their wives’ lower levels of drinking, write the authors. Men also were more likely than women to turn to drinking after a divorce.

On the other hand, the researchers found that married women consumed more drinks than long-term divorced or recently widowed women, in part because they lived with men who had higher levels of alcohol use.

The researchers analyzed survey data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to explore population trends in the relationship between marriage and alcohol.

The researchers also found:

In each marital status category, men consumed a greater average number of drinks than women.

Across every marital status category, a higher proportion of men than women also reported having at least one drinking-related problem.

Recently divorced men reported consuming a significantly greater average number of drinks than men in long-term marriages.

Reporting at least one drinking-related problem was significantly higher among long-term divorced and recently divorced women than long-term married women.

The researchers gauged alcohol consumption by total number of drinks consumed in a month.

The researchers suggest that future research should examine more closely how widowhood shapes alcohol use over time, as well as explore alcohol use differences across race-ethnicity.