News Release

Study examines the relationship between marriage and alcohol

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Sociological Association

DENVER — New research examining relationships and the use of alcohol finds that while a long-term marriage appears to curb men's drinking, it's associated with a slightly higher level of alcohol use among women. The study, led by the University of Cincinnati (UC), will be presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Based on survey data and interviews, the authors revealed that married men reported consuming the lowest number of drinks, compared with single, divorced, and widowed men. That's in part because of their wives' lower levels of drinking, write the authors. Men also were more likely than women to turn to drinking after a divorce.

On the other hand, the researchers found that married women consumed more drinks than long-term divorced or recently widowed women, in part because they lived with men who had higher levels of alcohol use.

The authors of the study are Corinne Reczek, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati; Tetyana Pudrovska, an assistant professor of sociology and demography at The Pennsylvania State University; Deborah Carr, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University; and Debra Umberson, a professor of sociology at University of Texas at Austin.

The researchers analyzed survey data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to explore population trends in the relationship between marriage and alcohol. They also analyzed data from two in-depth interview studies, the Marital Quality Over the Life Course Project, conducted between 2003-2006, and the Relationships and Health Habits Over the Life Course Study, conducted between 2007-2010.

The researchers also found that:

  • In each marital status category, men consumed a greater average number of drinks than women.

  • Across every marital status category, a higher proportion of men than women also reported having at least one drinking-related problem.

  • Recently divorced men reported consuming a significantly greater average number of drinks than men in long-term marriages.

  • Reporting at least one drinking-related problem was significantly higher among long-term divorced and recently divorced women than long-term married women.

The researchers gauged alcohol consumption by total number of drinks consumed in a month.

The researchers suggest that future research should examine more closely how widowhood shapes alcohol use over time, as well as explore alcohol use differences across race-ethnicity.


The study was supported by funding in part from the National Institutes of Aging.

About the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS)

The WLS is a long-term survey of 10,317 men and women who graduated high school in 1957. Respondents were interviewed during their senior year in high school, as well as at age 35-36 (in 1975), 53-54 (in 1993) and 64-65 (2004). The UC study was based on the analysis of 5,305 respondents, including 2,439 men and 2,866 women—participants in a random sample of the WLS that received questions about alcohol use. The respondents were primarily white.

The Martial Quality Over the Life Course Project

The Martial Quality Over the Life Course Project involved 60 in-depth interviews conducted between 2003-2006, with 30 heterosexual couples who had been married for at least seven years. Spouses were interviewed separately. The UC study examined responses to open-ended questions exploring how the transition into marriage, as well as being married, influenced both spouses' alcohol use. The average age of respondents was 53 years, and their average marriage duration was 25 years. Respondents were white (52), African-American (six), Asian-American (one), and Latina (one). Interviews were conducted in a mid-size southwestern city.

The Relationships and Health Habits Over the Life Course Study

The Relationships and Health Habits Over the Life Course Study involved 60 in-depth interviews conducted between 2007-2010. The UC study analyzed responses from 10 married men and nine married women; 14 divorced men and 13 divorced women; four never-married men and six never-married women; one widowed man and three widowed women. The UC study examined responses related to alcohol use in the transition to marriage, divorce or widowhood—as well as how being married, divorced, or widowed influenced alcohol use over time. Half of the respondents were African-American and half were white. Their ages ranged from 25-89, with an average age of 53. Interviews were conducted in a mid-size southwestern city.

About the American Sociological Association

The American Sociological Association, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.

The paper, "Marital Status, Marital Transitions, and Alcohol Use: A Mixed-Methods Study," will be presented on Sunday, Aug. 19, at 8:30 a.m. MDT in Denver, Colorado, at the American Sociological Association's 107th Annual Meeting.

To obtain a copy of the paper; for more information on other ASA presentations; or for assistance reaching the study's author(s), members of the media can contact Daniel Fowler, ASA's Media Relations and Public Affairs Officer, at (202) 527-7885 or During the Annual Meeting (Aug. 17-20), ASA's Public Information Office staff can be reached in the press room, located in Mezzanine A of the Colorado Convention Center, at (303) 228-8350 or (914) 450-4557 (cell).

For more information about the study, members of the media can also contact Dawn Fuller, Public Information Officer, University of Cincinnati, at (513) 556-1823 or

Papers presented at the ASA Annual Meeting are typically working papers that have not yet been published in peer reviewed journals.

Contact: Daniel Fowler, (202) 527-7885, (914) 450-4557 (cell),
On-site Press Room (Aug. 17-20): Colorado Convention Center, Mezzanine A, (303) 228-8350

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.