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Alcohol a Risk Factor for Divorce, Says Study

Update Date: Feb 06, 2013 08:54 AM EST

According to a new study from Norway, people who drink more alcohol have a higher risk of divorce. Also, the divorce rates were found higher among partners who had different drinking habits.

Now, it's known that people who drink excessively don't take part in regular family activities and have higher rates of conflicts with their spouses. The present study examined the effect of drinking on divorce rates from two angles; one was the effect when either the wife or the husband was a heavy drinker, and second when both husband and wife had same or different drinking patterns.

"On average, divorced people drink more than married people. To some extent, this is due to increased drinking after a divorce, but people who drink heavily also have a higher risk of experiencing a divorce, so heavy drinking likely interferes fundamentally with the quality of marriage," said Fartein Ask Torvik, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Moderate alcohol consumption has many benefits including an improvement in quality of life in old age, but when consumed in excess, it takes a huge toll on the physical and psychological well-being of a person. According to estimates, nearly 17.6 million adults in the United States are either alcoholics or have other alcohol-related problems.

The data for the study came from a previous research on the subject, in which nearly 20,000 couples from a Norwegian County had participated between the years 1984 and 1986.

All the participants provided information about their marriage and drinking habits along with mental health. Researchers then assessed the risk of divorce over the next 15 years.

"Essentially, the more people drink, the higher is the risk of divorce. In addition, the risk of divorce is lowered if the spouses drink approximately the same amount of alcohol. This is not only true for those who drink excessively - there is also a reduced risk of divorce if both spouses abstain totally from alcohol. Also, we found heavy drinking among women to be more strongly associated with divorce than heavy drinking among men," said Torvik.

Wife's drinking triples risk for divorce                                                                                                                          

The study found that the risk for divorce was low if husband and wife drank less. However, if the man drank less and the woman drank more, the risk for divorce increased threefold.

Researchers say that this increase in divorce rates may be due to women's body being more susceptible to the effects of alcohol and to the decreased acceptance of heavy drinking women by the society.

The idea that women drinking heavily are at a higher risk of various health issues than men is supported by The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The woman's body weighs less and has low amounts of water and so the risk of alcohol exposure is higher in women than in men.

Know your partner and his/her drinking pattern before tying the knot

Ellinor F. Major, director of the division of mental health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, says that couples can reduce the risk of divorce by knowing their partners' drinking habits. Major also says that people can encourage their heavy drinking spouses to cut down their drinking to at least moderate levels.

"Furthermore, while our results indicate that compatibility in drinking is important with regard to divorce, a couple with two heavy drinkers still has a higher divorce risk than couples consisting of light drinkers," added Torvik.

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