RESEARCHERS from the University of Buffalo have studied 634 couples through their first nine years of marriage, finding that the divorce rate was significantly higher when only one person in each couple was a heavy drinker.
Surprisingly, if both partners drank equally heavy than their chances of splitting up were no higher than couples that didn't drink at all.
"Our results indicate that it is the difference between the couple's drinking habits, rather than the drinking itself, that leads to marital dissatisfaction, separation and divorce," said Kenneth Leonard, PhD, RIA director and lead author of the study.
The researchers found that during the nine year study, couples where only one member drank heavily got divorced 50 per cent of the time. By comparison, the rate of separation for all other couples (when both partners drank, or did not drink, equal amounts) was 30 per cent.
"Heavy drinking spouses may be more tolerant of negative experiences related to alcohol due to their own drinking habits," said Leonard.
Although he also noted that whilst heavy drinkers stayed together, their drinking would certainly affect other aspects of family life: "While two heavy drinkers may not divorce, they may create a particularly bad climate for their children."
For the purpose of the study "heavy drinking" was defined as drinking more than six drinks in a night or drinking until intoxicated.
The study, which was co-authored by Gregory Homish and Philip Smith, two PhD students from the university, also took into account other factors that could have affected the marriages, including substance abuse and depression.
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