Vitality

Getting Married Might Lead To Reduction In Heavy Drinking Among Young Adults

married
Getting married could impact a person's drinking habits, especially if they were severe drinkers. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

By the time you’re 25, the hangovers have taken on an entirely new shape and form: They’re way more painful and nauseating, and sometimes they can knock you out for a whole day or even two. This, plus the whole full-time job thing, generally leads to a “maturing out” and reduction in alcohol consumption as young people grow into adults.

But new research suggests that in addition to that general “maturing out,” a decrease in drinking might also be influenced by marriage. The study, completed by researchers from the University of Missouri and Arizona State University, found that marriage can lead to “dramatic” drinking decreases, even if the person has had severe drinking problems.

In the study, researchers used data from a previous ongoing study that examines family alcohol disorders. They reviewed how the drinking rates among the study participants changed from age 18 to 40, and how marriage impacted these alterations.

“A key conceptual framework psychologists use to explain maturing out and the ‘marriage effect’ is role-incompatibility theory,” Matthew Lee, an author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at University of Missouri, said in the press release . “The theory suggests that if a person’s existing behavioral pattern is conflicting with the demands of a new role, such as marriage, one way to resolve the incompatibility is to change behavior. We hypothesized that this incompatibility may be greater for more severe drinkers, so they’ll need to make greater changes to their drinking to meet the role demands of marriage.”

They found that marriage led to significant decreases in alcohol consumption, particularly for people who had severe problems with alcohol.

“We believe that greater problem drinking likely conflicts more with the demands of roles like marriage; thus, more severe problem drinkers are likely required to more substantially alter their drinking habits to adapt to the marital role,” Lee said in the press release.

Indeed, marriage comes with its costs and benefits; but plenty of studies have examined its positive effects on health. For example, one recent study found that married people might eat healthier than single people — even if they don’t necessarily exercise as much. Indeed, some past research has found that married men might be more likely to gain weight or become obese compared to their single counterparts. But other studies have shown that marriage is good for your heart, mental health, and recovering from major surgeries. Now, fighting alcoholism might be on that list.

Source: Lee M, Chassin L, MacKinnon D. Role Transitions and Young Adult Maturing Out of Heavy Drinking: Evidence for Larger Effects of Marriage Among More Severe Premarriage Problem Drinkers. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2015.

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