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J Stud Alcohol. 2001 Sep;62(5):589-604.

Associations between marital status and alcohol consumption in a longitudinal study of female twins.

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Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond 23298-0126, USA.



Prior studies have documented an association between marriage and lower alcohol consumption. Data from a longitudinal study of female twins were used to address whether longitudinal drinking trajectories are more closely related to current marital status or to patterns of marital status over time.


Past-year alcohol consumption frequency and quantity were obtained on one to three occasions, over 8 years, from 1,986 women aged 17-61. Latent growth models were applied to study whether trajectories of alcohol consumption are altered at first marriage and differ for women with different patterns of marital status changes.


There was substantial heterogeneity in consumption trajectories, but marital status was associated with a large proportion of the decline in consumption prior to age 30. Significant group differences in consumption trajectory were associated with marital status patterns; women who later divorced drank more than women who stayed married, and divorced women who remarried drank less than divorced women who did not remarry. Among identical twins, consumption patterns were associated with co-twin divorce, suggesting the marital "effect" may be partially due to family-level factors that influence drinking.


The results are consistent with a decrease in drinking accompanying the transition from being single to first marriage, but the influences of divorce on drinking appear to exist prior to divorce, are not directly associated with current status and may be mediated by familial processes. These results suggest that the influences of marriage on alcohol consumption are complex and cannot be limited to the simple view that marriage causes decreased drinking.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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