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Psychol Med. 2019 Nov 5:1-7. doi: 10.1017/S0033291719002964. [Epub ahead of print]

Marriage and reductions in men's alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis use.

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Departmentof Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA.



Psychoactive substance use is lower among married compared to divorced or unmarried men; yet, the nature of this effect remains unclear because becoming and staying married is potentially confounded with substance-related background familial and individual factors, like parental divorce and personality. The authors investigated the associations between marital status and substance use; how substance use changed across the transition to marriage; and whether marriage effects were likely to be causal.


The sample included 1790 adults from male-male twin pairs from a population-based registry. Measures of marital status and alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis use came from Life History Calendars. Data were analyzed using regression, co-twin comparison, and within-person models. The latter models are tools for quasi-causal inference that control for familial and individual-level confounders.


Married men used less alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis than men who were divorced/separated or single. In analyses of substance use across the transition to marriage, men reduced their alcohol and cannabis use both before and after marriage, but their tobacco use only after marriage. These effects were largely robust in co-twin and within-person analyses.


Marriage was associated with substantial reductions in substance use compared to being divorced/separated or single, and these reductions began prior to marriage. The co-twin comparison and within-person models ruled out the alternative explanation that marriage effects were due to confounding background familial and individual factors. These results provide strong evidence that the social role expectations associated with marriage reduce psychoactive substance use.


Alcohol; cannabis; marriage; quasi-causal inference; tobacco


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