Women ending marriage to a problem drinking partner decrease their own risk for problem drinking

Authors

  • Philip H. Smith,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA
    • Philip H. Smith, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Community Health and Health Behavior, 329 Kimball Tower, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA. E-mail: psmith3@buffalo.edu

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  • Gregory G. Homish,

    1. Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA
    2. Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA
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  • Kenneth E. Leonard,

    1. Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, NY, USA
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  • Jack R. Cornelius

    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Thomas Detre Hall, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
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ABSTRACT

Aims  Marital dissolution is associated with increased risk of problematic drinking. However, marriage to a problem drinker also increases this risk, and ending this type of relationship may actually decrease risk of problematic drinking. This study tested whether women ending their marriage to a problem drinker exhibited improvements in drinking.

Design  National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a two-wave nationally representative survey of the US adult population.

Setting  In-person interviews conducted in US households.

Participants  Females married or living as if married at wave 1 at least 18 years of age.

Measurements  Socio-demographics, drinking frequency, drinking quantity, alcohol use disorders, problem drinking, partner problem drinking and relationship dissolution.

Findings  Ending marriage to a non-problem drinker predicted increased frequency of drinking [risk ratio (RR) = 1.55; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.43, 1.67], heavier drinking (RR = 1.30; 95% CI = 1.71, 1.45), more problematic drinking (RR = 2.45; 95% CI = 2.17, 2.77) and a greater likelihood of use disorder diagnosis [odds ratio (OR) = 2.2; 95% CI = 1.67, 2.91]. Ending a relationship with a problem drinker predicted less frequent drinking (RR = 0.94; 95% CI = 0.90, 0.98), less heavy drinking (RR = 0.84; 95% CI = 0.78, 0.90) and fewer alcohol-related problems (RR = 0.77; 95% CI = 0.62, 0.95).

Conclusions  Ending a marriage with a husband who drinks problematically may decrease risk of alcohol-related problems among women, substantiating the need for alcohol treatments to address a problem drinking partner.

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