Study shows wives drink more than single women
Married women may tend to drink more than their single counterparts, but this may be due to the husband's habit, a new study has suggested.
In contrast, the study suggested married men may drink less as they spend less time with their drinking buddies, according to a report on Huffington Post.
"Stable marriage curbs men's drinking yet is associated with a slightly higher level of alcohol use among women," sociologists from the University of Cincinnati, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University and the University of Texas at Austin wrote in their paper on the study, according to the Huffington Post article.
The study confirmed previous studies that showed married people drink less than single people—but only in men. On the other hand, it showed married women actually drink more on average than women who were never married, divorced or widowed, the report said.
But lead researcher Corinne Reczek, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati, said that while the finding that married women drink more than single women is surprising, it may not be cause for concern.
Reczek said men's drinking during divorce is of greater concern.
The study, which was presented at the meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver, also showed recently divorced men are at high risk of alcohol abuse.
"Divorced men are at higher risk for heavy alcohol use, and thus may require increased attention at this transitional stage," Reczek said.
On the other hand, the authors said men who fail to "converge" with their wives' drinking habits in marriage may set a course toward divorce and continued heavy drinking.
In contrast, "men who converge with their wives' lesser drinking habits may set trajectories towards lower overall consumption and sustained marriage," they added.
This suggests one key to a successful marriage may be for men to follow their lighter-drinking wives' lead on alcohol consumption, the Huffington Post report said.
The study looked at data from 5,305 men and women from Wisconsin who answered questionnaires about alcohol use in 1993 and again in 2004.
The participants reported how many drinks they consumed in a month and if they had any history of drinking problems, the report said.
This was analyzed along with data culled from interviews over the past decade with never-married, married, divorced and widowed men and women.
According to the Huffington Post, the study is the first to look at alcohol use among different types of unmarried people, including the never-married, the divorced and the widowed.
Meanwhile, LiveScience reported that the interviews indicated "drinking habits during marriage are influenced by those of spouses — for better or for worse — whereas how much a person imbibes after a marriage ends has to do with their coping mechanisms, as well as the shedding of marital influence."
Men on average drink more than women, and this statistic plays out during marriage and divorce, the study indicated.
According to LiveScience, majority of men who were interviewed described three main reasons why marriage curbed their drinking: less time spent with drinking buddies, their wives drank less than they did, and their wives worked to limit how much they drank.
On the other hand, the study also showed most women reported starting to drink or drinking more during marriage because their husbands drank, and some of them said they enjoyed drinking together as a couple.
"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," LiveScience quoted Reczek as saying.
Drinking and divorce
The study showed men and women also responded differently to divorce in terms of their drinking.
Recently divorced men drank significantly more than men in long-term marriages, while women's drinking fell sharply after the marriage is dissolved.
The study found men may drink more than women on average partly due to different coping mechanisms.
"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 was quoted in the Huffington Post article.
Such techniques become especially apparent during the trauma of divorce, when men drink significantly more and women drink significantly less than they did during marriage, the report said.
Three-fourths of divorced men in the study said the stress and pain of their marital dissolution drove them to drink.
On the other hand, three-fourths of divorced women said they drank less after their marriage because they coped through depression rather than alcohol, and because they were no longer influenced by their ex's drinking.
For women, "the transition to divorce was discussed in relation to depression symptoms, which resulted in abstaining from both food and alcohol," the authors wrote.
"For most, alcohol was absent from their discussions of divorce. Instead, weight loss and changes in diet were a large component of how women described transitioning to divorce," they added.
Reporting a drinking problem
Although they tend to drink less after their marriages dissolved, divorced women were more likely to report ever having had a drinking problem, the study found.
“This was a fascinating finding,” Reczek said.
Although seemingly contradictory, the result could be explained by having previously lived with a problem drinker, the study said.
"The reason divorced women report ever (not currently) having a drinking problem is, perhaps, because they were previously married to men who also had drinking problems. With divorce, they may no longer drink alcohol," Huffington Post quoted the authors as saying.
Marital status' implications
The study suggested that marital status has important implications for alcohol use and misuse and the potential health consequences.
"Men's alcohol use and overall health benefits from women's influence in marriage, while women's alcohol use is increased with marriage, possibly resulting in lower rates of well-being for these women," the authors said.
In this sense, ending a marriage to a heavy drinker may promote health in some women, the study suggested. –CGL/KG, GMA News