Posted on Dec 19, 2013

A new study has found that heavy drinking can increase your chance of divorce—but only if one spouse is drinking significantly more than the other. According to researchers at the University of Buffalo, divorce rates are higher among couples that don’t share similar drinking patterns and that drinking the same amount as your partner is better for marriage whether you are a light drinker or a heavy drinker.

Lead author Kenneth Leonard followed over 600 couples through the first nine years of marriage, tracking how much each spouse drank and which couples suffered marital strife, separation, and divorce. He found that the divorce rate among couples in which one spouse drank heavily, 50 percent divorced in under a decade. The divorce rate among couples that drank similar amounts of alcohol was about 30 percent.

The study suggests that if both partners are light drinkers or if both partners are heavy drinkers, divorce is less likely. This could be because both partners have similar experiences with alcohol and have a greater tolerance for the negative experiences associated with heavy drinking.

Leonard warned that although his study suggests that heavy drinking by both spouses’ decreases the chance of divorce—it does not prove that heavy drinking means a good marriage. Drinking has been linked with domestic abuse, and heavy drinking by both partners could create a poor environment for children.

Last winter, a Norwegian study found the exact same results: researchers tracked 20,000 couples over 15 years and concluded that couples who consume similar amounts of alcohol are more likely to stay together than those with disparate drinking habits.

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Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington