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Alcohol delays, breaks marriages, study finds
January 18th, 2011
04:50 PM ET

Alcohol delays, breaks marriages, study finds

Alcohol dependency not only affects people who drink excessively, but also spouses, friends and family. Now a new study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research finds that alcoholism has a strong connection to when people get married and whether those marriages are successful.

"For young adults who are drinking, if their drinking continues to levels of problem use, it could impact their likelihood of marriage as well as likelihood of having a really lasting marriage," said study author Mary Waldron, assistant professor in human development at Indiana University. "What we found is yes, it's true that alcohol dependence is a strong predictor of separation and we've known that for quite a while, it was really the predictor of delayed marriage that was surprising to us."The study looked at 5,000 Australian twins, ages 28-92, all of whom reported a history of alcohol dependence sometime over their lifetime.

The researchers found the association between alcoholism and getting married for the first time at a 23% lower likelihood for women. For men it was 36% lower only after age 29. For both sexes, the researchers concluded that the chance of separation was twice as likely and earlier. They also found that genetics played a role.

"What we found by using both fraternal and identical twins is that genetic influences appear to contribute to the association ... but the processes underlying the genetic effect, we really don't know yet and that will be a focus of future research," Waldron said.

She hopes the research will open doors to understanding the consequences of alcoholism on children.

"For us to really understand the impact of parental alcoholism on kids, we really need to examine parental marriage and divorce," she said.

According to the American Psychological Association, alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, is defined as losing reliable control of one's drinking, causing a higher tolerance and symptoms of withdrawal if the drinking's discontinued. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says 17.6 million adults in the United States abuse alcohol or are dependent on alcohol.


soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. jdubski

    this has no relevance. its based on Aussies.

    January 18, 2011 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • natalie

      you are an idiot! like that would make a diff!

      January 19, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
  2. Jessica

    I can see why there are lower odds. Who the heck wants to take care of a drunk? Not me!

    January 18, 2011 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. T3chsupport

    They never see it that way, though. If they're a drunk, it's always someone else's fault that they're single and lonely.

    January 18, 2011 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MO

      Very true.

      January 18, 2011 at 18:40 | Report abuse |
    • spartakus1911

      yes ..you are absolutelty true on this..

      January 18, 2011 at 20:13 | Report abuse |
    • Justamom

      Oh, yes.

      January 18, 2011 at 21:34 | Report abuse |
  4. Curiouser

    Fascinating way of using twins to get at these questions... Waldron is clearly on to something here

    January 18, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Captain

    This problem isn't isolated to just Alcoholism but any kind of addiction; including food, opiates, alcohol ect... Addictions are the psycho-social plagues for modern society.

    January 18, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Lonestar2

    Oh' my.... This sounds as dangerous as smoking. Funny how this doesn't get half the ridicule that smoking does. Think about it! Alcohol is so cool... smoking isn't, right? CRAP!

    January 18, 2011 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mike mcglynn

      alcohol is a drug. any and all drugs affect living organasims the same. it dosen't matter if its cocane, herion or alcohol, it destroys the mind and body

      January 19, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Alcohol doesn't always hurt the people around you....smoking does.

      February 10, 2011 at 08:49 | Report abuse |
  7. DYBO

    "What was I thinking?" "It seemed like a good idea at the time" how many couples have tied the knot while inebriated only to awaken staring at each other in horror.

    January 18, 2011 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Michael Kelly

    A BIG DUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH...Please.....and it took a Ph.D to figure this one out!

    January 18, 2011 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. brian

    You finger waggin' sober fuc-k-rs ain't all you're cracked up to be either.....

    January 18, 2011 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lost

      Are you intoxicated right now?

      January 18, 2011 at 23:39 | Report abuse |
  10. MK

    Thank you B for confirming what many already know, the main reason for difficulty in marriages where drug addiction or alcohol is present is due to continuous blame on everyone else for their problems, living in "their reality" and lies. It is usually so hard to break the cycle that eventually it is better to get out than let the ship take you and the kids down. Been there done that!.... But their is no greater story than one who fully recovers and gets past the blame game and moves past the bitterness and moves on:)

    January 18, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • brian

      I've seen as many sober people feeling sorry for themselves.... its not a domain exclusive to drunks.

      January 18, 2011 at 23:08 | Report abuse |
  11. MK

    Good point. That is why I like the GEICO commercial about the drill sergeant.

    January 18, 2011 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Suzanne

      I think all of us who have tried to live with someone dependent on alcohol likes that commercial. After years of listening to why their life is screwed up and why their relationships fail with family, friends, co-workers, loved ones, .... our "I feel sorry for you and think I can help" disease gets cured .... MOVING ON....

      January 19, 2011 at 09:38 | Report abuse |
  12. Tom Stokes

    Awesome study!! Good for you!! I am immensely pleased to be related to you and your research is outstanding! Tom

    January 18, 2011 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. victor

    i agree with you. been somehow dependent to alcohol for sometime and keeping a girl for sometime has been an issue. however this does not only apply to drunks only. even sobber people can't keep a relationship for long and their marriages are boring at times.

    January 18, 2011 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. jerk

    I cannot believe they needed a "study" to tell us alcohol ruins people's lives, relationships and families.
    Really?

    January 19, 2011 at 00:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. LEB

    Um, did anyone seriously believe that alcoholism could possibly BENEFIT marriages and families? Seriously, why did money need to be wasted on a study like this?

    January 19, 2011 at 02:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Big D

    For any of y'all interrested, try going to an "open" meeting of AA. Could be that you might find something interesting about yourself.

    January 19, 2011 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. lee

    I find this study interesting within the comment about how alcoholism became apparent AFTER they married. My mother is an alcoholic, her mother was an alcoholic and my problems began when I got married " very interesting. Rightfully so, my marriage ended in divorce and I never drank again either! Hmmmmm....

    January 19, 2011 at 05:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. JAE1983

    You mean no one wants to marry or stay married to an alcoholic? Wow, I never would have guessed! How much did this study cost, and who paid for it?

    January 19, 2011 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Thomas

    A drunk makes for a bad marriage, best to kick them to the curb before they drag you down with their problems. Life is way too short for misery.

    January 19, 2011 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Michael Wong

    Do drunks make bad partners because they drink, or do they make bad partners because they're morons? Smart people are less likely to be drunks (I know, I know, somebody will point out an anecdotal example which he believes to disprove this generalized statement).

    January 19, 2011 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael's Wrong

      Actually, no one else has to point out any kind of example, Michael. You are the one making the claim that smart people are less likely to be drunks, so it's on you to prove that.

      January 19, 2011 at 09:26 | Report abuse |
  21. Philip

    Alcohol is just their weapon of choice, why blame it? Alcohol is like a hand-gun. Guns don't kill people, neither does alcohol. But place a gun or a bottle in the hands of an irresponsible person, then people die or suffer damages. As long as the focus is on the booze, it's off the boozer and the codependants who make it all possible. Alcohol is just a substance and remains the same. People, however, have not remained the same, and have come up with ingenious ways to carry on their self-destructive anti-social behaviors, even going so far as to look for a genetic excuse, as if they were just born that way and the rest of us must tolerate it right along with them. Grow up. Stop blaming the bottle.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Mike

    True. I watched my mom grow up and advanced from a regular drinker into a heavy alcoholic. I watched her best marriage crumble and she fell into the dating scene as an alcoholic. She was only able to find other alcoholics who she could only stand for a week at most, at least thats what I understand, maybe its vice versa. Shes 100% hopeless at this point unless she takes another alcoholic considering their only hobbies are drinking, they can always do that together.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. dew44

    Unlell I missed it, I am surprised that no one has raised the possbility that alcohol abuse may reflect other, underlying (or precursor) mental health issues, like anxiety or depression. Obviously alcohol causes depression (it is a depressant) but people who have problems with, for example, forming social relationships may turn to alcohol as one way to mute the problem. in other words, some people who develop alcohol problems AND have problems forming (sober) social relationships are more likely to divorce or separate. It is also possible that, because of the social problems, the stress of marriage worsens their response, and the aclohol abuse worsens too, resulting in the end of a marriage.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dew44

      that's "unless" not "unlell"

      January 19, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
  24. lyn

    So your married to an alcoholic with no end in sight...now what? Yes its a problem but so is leaving the marriage. So what now?

    January 19, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. William

    "The researchers found the association between alcoholism and getting married for the first time at a 23% lower likelihood for women. For men it was 36% lower only after age 29."

    This is the first pro-alcoholism study I've ever seen.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lincoln's Doctor's Dog

      Ha ha!

      January 19, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse |
  26. dave

    What a brilliant study - Now go figure out how much is 2+2 and in which direction do you have to look to see the sun rise

    January 19, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Philip

    If you are married to an alcoholic, you can either continue enabling the drunk, or you can leave them. To stay in a dysfunctional relationship "for the kids" only guarantees one thing: passing your problems onto the next generation. Until a drunkkard is all alone, he/she will never look into the mirror of recovery. There are established programs of recovery where they can go hang-out with other dry-drunks if they get too lonely, so don't feel sorry for them.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Odalice yolanda feliz

    Slow down on the drinks....

    January 19, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. SAM

    At a cost to the PUBLIC of ? $235 Billion PER YEAR,and Pays pennies in Taxes,Is Advertised all over the USA,on TV,Magazines,Billboards,newspapers,RADIO on on the VEHICLES THAT DELIVER THE FUEL But Most of all IS CONDONED as Marked as GOOD FOR YOU

    January 19, 2011 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Finally safe way to abrade stretch marks at home http://www.medicalcrystals.com

    January 21, 2011 at 04:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. CleanLiving87

    For every individual struggling with alcohol addiction, there are dozens of others affected. If you are a friend, family member or co-worker of someone who has a drinking problem, there are a few steps you can take to be a positive force for change:

    * Do get educated about the disease of addiction and share your knowledge with your loved one.
    * Don’t lecture or punish or attempt to make an alcoholic feel guilty or ashamed.
    * Do stage an intervention, if appropriate, to convey your feelings in a productive way and ask the person to enter treatment for alcohol addiction. http://bit.ly/fMdLWi

    January 21, 2011 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. rh

    So otherwise, the marriages would be fine?

    How silly! Did you ever think that the fiancee or spouse is the reason they drink, or at least is not making things better?

    February 16, 2011 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply

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