Saturday, January 07, 2006

Drinking and Divorce Among Geezers

Social Science & Medicine
Volume 61, Issue 11 , December 2005, Pages 2304-2316

Heavy alcohol use and marital dissolution in the USA

Jan Ostermann, Frank A. SloanCorresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author and Donald H. Taylor

Center for Health Policy, Law and Management, Duke University, Box 90253, Durham, NC 27708, USA

Available online 2 September 2005.

Using the first five waves of the US Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative survey of middle-aged persons in the USA conducted between 1992 and 2000, we assessed the association between alcohol consumption and separation and divorce (combined as divorced in the analysis) for 4589 married couples during up to four repeated 2-yr follow-up periods. We found that drinking status was positively correlated between spouses. The correlations did not increase over the follow-up period. Discrepancies in alcohol consumption between spouses were more closely related to the probability of subsequent divorce than consumption levels per se. Couples with two abstainers and couples with two heavy drinkers had the lowest rates of divorce. Couples with one heavy drinker were most likely to divorce. Controlling for current consumption levels, a history of problem drinking by either spouse was not significantly associated with an increased probability of divorce. Our findings on alcohol use and marital dissolution were highly robust in alternative specifications.


[The other Francis Bacon]

BrooklynDodger Comments:
The Dodger hopes readers will not read too much into a continuing interest in health effects of alcohol consumption, or their absence. In this study, it appears that heavy drinking only causes divorce if your spouse doesn't drink.

The abstract leaves out the most important observations because of focus on the analytical aims. The HRS study sample consisted of persons aged 51–61 in 1992 and their spouses, if married. Only 189 or 4% of the sample divorced during the observation period, with the proportion falling to 0.5% during the last 2 year period. The Dodger guesses that couples making it to 51 and still married figure they have to live with whomever they have, and the longer they stay together, the better chance of finishing out that way.

Overall, 40% were abstainers, with a higher percentage of abstainers among women, and persons of both genders not divorced. Few women copped to heavy drinking, but 2.5% of the not divorced men, and 5.6% of the enventually divorced men did.

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