A longitudinal analysis of individuals born in Sweden has found that marriage protects against risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, and those who are among the most susceptible to alcoholism might derive the greatest benefit from marriage.
Published May 16 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study reported that a first marriage resulted in a 59% reduction in alcoholism risk for men and a 73% risk reduction for women. Marriage's protective effects were found to be stronger in individuals with a family history of alcohol use disorders.
Researchers also found an exception to the protective effects of marriage: being married to someone with a history of alcohol use problems. “While being married to a spouse who now or in the future stays free of alcohol problems is quite protective, marrying someone who now or in the future develops alcohol problems is the opposite,” said Kenneth S. Kendler, MD, professor of psychiatry and human and molecular genetics at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and the study's lead author. “It is considerably worse than being single.”
The study examined more than 3.2 million people born in Sweden between 1960 and 1990 who were single at study onset and had no alcoholism history. The researchers are presently studying the effect of divorce on alcohol use disorders.