Drinking and Marital Satisfaction are Related among Older Couples

When both husband and wife drink alcohol, they are generally more satisfied with their marriage. In short, drinking and marital satisfaction go together.

Researchers at the University of Michigan reported these findings.

The Study of Drinking and Marital Satisfaction

drinking and marital satisfactionThe investigators studied a nationally representative sample of couples in the U.S. over age age 50. A total of 2,767 couples participated in the long-term study. Their marriages were an average of 33 years at baseline. It was their first marriage for about two-thirds of the couples.

For ten years, researchers had face to face interviews with all participants. The total was 5,534 individual spouses. The investigators collected detailed information about drinking. Did the person drink alcohol? If so, exactly how much and how often?

They also collected data on quality of marriage. For example, was their spouse too demanding? Too critical? Irritating? Reliable when they needed help?

Their marital satisfaction was the highest if both spouses drank. It was lower if they both abstained from alcohol. And it was the lowest if only one spouse drank.

Whether the spouse drank was much more important than how much they drank.

The researchers did not recommend that couples begin drinking to improve their marriages. The reason for the findings is not clear. It’s possible that if both partners drink, that they spend more time together. Perhaps drinking improves the quality of their shared time. Of coure, there are many other possible explanations.

But it’s clear that drinking and marital satisfaction are associated in this representative sample.

Source: Birditt, K., et al. Drinking patterns among older couples. Longitudinal associations with negative marital quality.  J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci, 2016. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbw073

Resources

Davis, R. More Perfect Unions. The American Search for Marital Bliss. Cambridge: Harvard U Press, 2010.

Kendrick, H., and Dentrea, P. Marital Adjustment. In: Shehan, C. (ed). Wiley Encyclopedia of Family Studies. NY: Wiley, 2016.

Lerner, A. Marriage. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2009.

McCoy, A., et al. The meta marriage. Links between older couples’ relationship narratives and marital satisfaction. Fam. Proc, 2016. doi:10.1111/famp.12217

Van den Troost, A. Marriage in Motion.  A Study on the Social Context and Processes of Marital Satisfaction. Belgium: Leuven U. Press, 2005.