Drinking Diaries

Alcohol's pleasures and perils

Marriage Leads to Women Drinking More and Men Drinking Less

A recent study reveals marriage's affect on drinking habits.

Does your husband drink less than before you walked down the aisle? Do you consume more? According to a recent study, married women drink more alcohol than divorced or recently-widowed women–apparently because they live with husbands who simply consume more.

On the flip side, the study revealed that married men consumed the least alcohol–compared to single, divorced and widowed men–due to their wives’ lower levels of drinking. Men were also more likely to turn to drinking after a divorce than women.

After reading the study’s findings, I had to stop and think about what it was like for my husband and me before we got married, a whopping 23 years ago. When I think back, it does seem feasible that we were drinking wine more frequently–I’m happy with a glass or two, he prefers to polish off the bottle–after we said “I do.” I’m sure he pounded many more beers when out with buddies than he did at home with me, and while I had my share of happy hours with friends, they were not a daily event.

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While research has been done on the drinking habits of single and married people, the study, conducted by sociologists from University of Cincinnati, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University and the University of Texas at Austin, is the first to look at alcohol use among the never-married, the divorced and the widowed, says an article on LiveScience.com.

The researchers reviewed survey data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to explore trends in the relationship between marriage and alcohol. They also analyzed data from two in-depth interview studies, the Marital Quality Over the Life Course Project, conducted between 2003-2006, and the Relationships and Health Habits Over the Life Course Study, conducted between 2007-2010.

“Stable marriage curbs men’s drinking yet is associated with a slightly higher level of alcohol use among women,” the authors wrote. ”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, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati, told LiveScience.

So in the marriage category, we can see how a woman may be influenced by her guy’s greater consumption level and he by his wife’s avoidance of a beer belly. But when it comes to divorce, it’s different coping mechanisms that seem to cause men to consume more booze than women on average. ”Some research suggests that men are more likely to cope with stressors in ‘externalizing’ ways (i.e., alcohol use), while women are more likely to cope in ‘internalizing’ ways (e.g., depression),” Reczek wrote.

I hope not to find myself in the never-married category, but I imagine there can be some complicated outcomes that arise from the intersecting influences of relationships and alcohol. “Men who fail to converge with their wives’ drinking habits in marriage may set a trajectory towards divorce and continued heavy drinking,” wrote the study authors, “while men who converge with their wives’ lesser drinking habits may set trajectories towards lower overall consumption and sustained marriage.” So it seems that men would be smart to take their wife’s lead on the lighter boozing front–apparently one step in the direction of a successful marriage.

 

Caren Osten Gerszberg is a freelance writer, co-editor of the anthology Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up (Seal Press), and co-founder of the blog Drinking Diaries. more...

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