Study Shows Drinking Habits Can Predict Divorce

By Shawn Dwyer 11/27/13

Even heavy drinking couples can live in marital bliss so long as both consume the same amount of booze.

Maybe he should catch up
Photo via Warner Bros.

A nine-year study conducted by the University of Buffalo Research Institute of Addictions has concluded that married couples with equal drinking habits – even if heavy – have had more successful marriages than couples who consume dissimilar amounts of alcohol.

Researchers followed 634 couples and classified them into four distinct groups: one where neither was a heavy drinker, one where the husband was a heavy drinker, one where the wife was a heavy drinker, and one where both drank like sailors. Their findings showed that 45 to 55 percent of marriages where either the husband or the wife drank more ended in divorce by the ninth year. But when both drank equally, the divorce rate dropped to 35 percent. "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," said Kenneth Leonard, director of the research institute and lead author of the study. Even more surprising, the research showed that the divorce rates for heavy-drinking couples – heavy drinking being defined as six or more drinks, or drinking to intoxication – were no worse than they were for non-drinking couples. Meanwhile, rates for divorce were higher for couples where the wife drank more than when the husband did.

Earlier this year, more comprehensive research was conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, which examined almost 20,000 couples and reached a similar conclusion. Still, Leonard hoped that his research would spur further study. “The fact that this is something that is not typically explored or may not be viewed as being problematic is something that we hope will change,” he said.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.