Being in a Romantic and Serious Relationship Can Lower the Risks of Being an Alcoholic

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So if you think you really want to quit alcohol drinking, perhaps you can consider settling down and marrying your Mr/Ms Right. Yes, a new research shows that being with the right person (someone you truly love) promotes safer drinking habits thus lowering your risks to be trapped to alcoholism or alcohol abuse.

marriage and alcoholism 3People who are married, or cohabitating, generally tend to drink less both in amount and frequency, a new University of Virginia study indicates. Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden analyzed marital status and how it generally affects the risk for alcoholism.

The research adds to recent studies that show how marriage can lead to safer drinking habits — to drink less — that’s fewer drinks, and less frequently.  This one is similar to the protective effect the 12-step program and sponsors have on people in Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Maybe this is something that Alcoholics Anonymous figured out a long time ago,” said Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, a professor of psychiatry and human and molecular genetics in the Department of Psychiatry at the VCU School of Medicine, in a statement. “This study is part of forming a strong scientific base for understanding how important social influences can be on alcohol use disorder.”

Professor Kendler and his colleagues used data from 3.2 million people who were born in Sweden between 1960 and 1990. All of the study’s participants were single at the start and had no personal history of alcoholism. Using medical, criminal, and pharmacy records, the research team analyzed and interpreted the link between marital status and each participant’s risk for an alcohol use disorder.

Their findings showed that first marriage was associated with a 59 percent drop in alcoholism risk among men and a 73 percent decrease among women. This protective effect marriage seemed to have is found to be significantly stronger among both men and women with a family history of alcoholism.

However, marrying someone with a history of alcohol abuse was not so ideal for sobriety — it increased the risk of problems with alcohol, especially among women.

“It is the person who is most vulnerable to the risk of alcoholism from a genetic background who might be the most sensitive to the protective effects of marriage,” Kendler added. “While being married to a spouse who now or in the future stays free of alcohol problems is quite protective, marrying someone who now or in the future develops alcohol problems is the opposite. It is considerably worse than being single.”

This isn’t the first study to show how marriage can clean up a person’s drinking habits. Researchers from the University of Missouri and Arizona State University conducted a similar study that followed participants from age 18 to 40 to examine how marriage impacted drinking rates throughout adulthood. They found that marriage led to a dramatic reduction in drinking rates, especially among people with severe drinking problems.

This research team said the link between marriage and lower alcoholism risk can be explained by the role-incompatibility theory, which states that a person will change their existing behavioral pattern if it conflicts with the demands of a new role, such as marriage. More often than not, heavy drinkers have to make major changes to their drinking habits to keep up with the demands of their marriage.

marriage and alcoholism 2Meanwhile, on a separate study, its findings show that singles are more inclined to drink more often, and in larger quantities. “Intimate relationships cause a decline in alcohol consumption” is the gist of the finding, according to lead study author Diana Dinescu. Her study compared the reported drinking patterns of twins in and out of relationships.

Dinescu’s team compared married twins with their single, divorced and cohabitating co-twins on drinking frequency and quantity. The married co-twins, they found, consumed less alcohol than their single or divorced co-twins and also drank less frequently. Cohabitating twins, like their married cohorts, consumed less alcohol than single or divorced twins.

Interestingly, the researchers found that married co-twins consume less alcohol than their single or divorced co-twins and drink less often than their single co-twins. Cohabiting twins, like their married peers, also drink less alcohol than single or divorced twins.

The data also show that cohabiting twins generally drink more often than married men and women but less often than their single, widowed, or divorced counterparts. Cohabiting men have fewer drinks per sitting than married men. Cohabiting women drink about the same in one sitting as their married counterparts.

Many different studies have shown that married adults drink less than single or divorced people, and Dinescu and her colleagues examined the behaviors of 2,425 same-sex twin pairs to see if these findings held up among people who share genetic and familial backgrounds.

“It seems that intimate relationships may provide a real benefit in terms of drinking behavior, maybe through mechanisms such as a monitoring effect that partners have on each other.”

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