If you and your partner have the same drinking habits you’re likely to be happier, according to new research examining older adults’ relationships.
But trouble brews when one partner drinks and the other doesn’t — negative marital quality increased when drinking habits were out of whack.
“It is interesting that the effects of drinking on an individual’s own perception of the relationship depends on their partner’s drinking,” said researcher Kira S. Birditt from the University of Michigan in an email to Global News.
“What really matters here is how similar couples are in their drinking status.”
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 5,000 married participants. Couples in the study had been married for an average of 33 years, and about two-thirds were still in their first marriage. Drinking habits along with questions digging into the quality of their marriage were factored into the researchers’ results.
How much the couples drank didn’t seem to sway the results.
“It is also interesting that it didn’t matter how much people were drinking but that they reported any drinking. Thus it may be more about similarity in leisurely activities rather than drinking itself.”
Alcohol can have great effect on relationships and its impact has been studied before.
A 2012 study found that married women tend to drink more alcohol than divorced or widowed women, and that long-term marriage appears to curb men’s drinking.
A 2013 study found high levels of drinking “have repeatedly shown to predict divorce,” though the risk of divorce is lower if spouses consume around the same amount of alcohol.
Over-consumption of alcohol is a major public health concern, researchers cautioned.
“Heavy alcohol consumption is a problem of great public health concern in most Western societies,” Ellinor F. Major, director of the division of mental health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said at the time.
“It often leads to dysfunctional marriages and divorces.”
In their next steps, researchers of the recent study would like to explore how the increase in drinking affects couple’s everyday life, and examine if lifestyle rather than the alcohol’s affects improve the relationship.
“We would like to conduct further research on the daily processes that occur among couples who both drink. For instance, are they drinking together? Do they spend more time together? Do they participate in more social activities?”
You can read more about the study published in the Journals of Gerontology.