Couples who drink together stay together: Divorce less likely if husband and wife consume the same amount
Researchers looked at the drinking habits and divorce rates of nearly 20,000 couplesHighest divorce rate – 26.8% – was in couples where the husband was a light-drinker and the wife binged
15:58 GMT, 8 February 2013
16:15 GMT, 8 February 2013
When you toast your other half this Valentine's Day, here's hoping you don't finish off the bottle on your own.
For a new study has found that couples who drink similar amounts are more compatible.
A study of nearly 20,000 married couples revealed that husbands and wives who both consumed a moderate intake of alcohol were far less likely to divorce than couples where one was a heavy drinker.
Do you and your partner both enjoy the occasional tipple A Norwegian study suggests you are the couple most likely to stay together
Just 5.8 per cent of couples who were lighter drinkers ended up splitting up from their long-term partners, according to the study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
The highest divorce rate – 26.8 per cent – was in couples where the husband was a light-drinker while the wife went on binges.
However, it seems women are more forgiving, as when the roles were reversed the divorce rate halved to 13.1 per cent.
Researcher Fartein Ask Torvik, said there were several explanations for the disparity.
'One of them is that women in general seem to be more strongly affected by heavy drinking than men are. Thus, heavy-drinking women may be more impaired than heavy-drinking men,' he said.
Co-author Ellinor Major, added: 'Heavy drinking among women is also less acceptable than among men in our society.
'A wife's heavy drinking probably also interferes more with general family life – that is, the caring role of the mother, upbringing of children, etc. Perhaps the husband is more apt to the leave the spouse than is the wife when major problems occur.'
When both husband and wife were heavy drinkers the divorce rate of the Norwegian couples was 17.2 per cent.
'Essentially, the more people drink, the higher is the risk of divorce,' said Torvik.
'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.'
The divorce rate was 13.1% among couples where the husband drank more than the wife. However it was double that when the wife was the heavier drinker
Major said heavy drinking was a great public health concern in Western societies and put a strain on relationships.
'It often leads to dysfunctional marriages and divorces. The present study adds to our understanding of the predictive value of alcohol use, and particularly of discordant alcohol consumption for marital dissolution,' he said.
And once the marital bond is broken, it seems divorcees are even more likely to reach for the bottle.
'On average, divorced people drink more than married people,' Torvik said.
'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.'
The study provides food – or rather drink – for thought for those about to tie the knot.
'Couples who intend to marry should be aware of the drinking pattern of their partner since it may become a problem in the future,' Major said.
'Good advice probably would be to encourage a similar pattern of moderate or light drinking in both spouses.'
Results will be published in the May 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.