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New UC Research Examines The Relationship Between Marriage and Alcohol


The findings will be presented at the 107th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Date: 8/20/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823

UC ingot   New research examining relationships and the use of alcohol finds that while a long-term marriage appears to curb men’s drinking, it’s associated with a slightly higher level of alcohol use among women. The findings, led by the University of Cincinnati, was presented Aug. 19, at the 107th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver.



Based on survey data and interviews, the authors reveal that married men report consuming the lowest number of drinks, compared with single, divorced and widowed men. That’s in part because of their wives’ lower level of drinking, write the authors. Men also were more likely to turn to drinking after a divorce.

On the other hand, the researchers found that married women consumed more drinks than long-term divorced or recently widowed women, in part because they live with men who have higher levels of alcohol use.

The authors of the report are Corinne Reczek, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of sociology; Tetyana Pudrovska, assistant professor of sociology and demography, The Pennsylvania State University; Deborah Carr, professor of sociology, Rutgers University; and Debra Umberson, professor of sociology, University of Texas at Austin. The researchers analyzed survey data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to explore population 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.


The authors report that:

  • In each marital status category, men consumed a greater average number of drinks than women.
  • Across every marital status category, a higher proportion of men also reported having at least one drinking-related problem. 
  • Women who were divorced or widowed consumed significantly fewer drinks, on average, than married women. 
  • Recently divorced men reported consuming a significantly greater average number of drinks than men in long-term marriages. 
  • Reporting at least one drinking-related problem was significantly higher among long-term divorced and recently divorced women than long-term married women.

The researchers gauged alcohol consumption by total number of drinks consumed in a month.

Corinne Reczek (Photo by Dottie Stover)
Corinne Reczek (Photo by Dottie Stover)

The researchers suggest that future research should examine more closely how widowhood shapes alcohol use over time, as well as explore alcohol use differences across race-ethnicity.

The study was supported by funding in part from the National Institutes of Aging.

About the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS)
The WLS is a long-term survey of 10,317 men and women who graduated high school in 1957. Respondents were interviewed their senior year in high school, as well as at age 35-36 (in 1975), 53-54 (in 1993) and 64-65 (2004). The UC study was based on the analysis of 5,305 respondents, including 2,439 men and 2,866 women – participants in a random sample of the WLS that received questions about alcohol use. The respondents were primarily white.

The Marital Quality Over the Life Course Project
The study involved 60 in-depth interviews conducted between 2003-2006, with 30 heterosexual couples who had been married for at least seven years. Spouses were interviewed separately. The UC study examined responses to open-ended questions exploring how the transition into marriage, as well as being married, influenced both spouses’ alcohol use. The average age of respondents was 53 years, and their average marriage duration was 25 years. Respondents were white (52), African-American (six), Asian-American (1) and Latina (1). Interviews were conducted in a mid-size southwestern city.

The Relationships and Health Habits Over the Life Course Study
The study involved 60 in-depth interviews conducted between 2007-2010. The UC data analyzed responses from 10 married men and 9 married women; 14 divorced men and 13 divorced women; 4 never-married men and 6 never-married women; 1 widowed man and 3 widowed women. The UC study examined responses related to alcohol use in the transition to marriage, divorce or widowhood – as well as how being married, divorced or widowed influenced alcohol use over time. Half of the respondents were African-American and half were white. Their age ranged from 25-89, with an average age of 53. Interviews were conducted in a mid-size southwestern city.