Findings show if your spouse is a heavy drinker, then you have a higher risk of developing alcohol problems yourself.

Married people are less likely than single people to develop alcohol problems, but only if they choose a spouse without without a tendency to hit the bottle, research suggests

The 30-year study of more than 3 million men and women highlights the importance of choosing the right spouse to minimise the potential of alcoholism.
It shows that while marrying someone without an alcohol problem is strongly protective, having an affected spouse significantly increases a person’s risk for future alcohol use disorder (AUD).

These findings go beyond previous studies that show spouses tend to be consistent with each other for alcohol use disorder, say the Swedish researchers.

They reflect substantial literature documenting partner influence and convergence for alcohol use,  as well as the heightened risk for developing alcohol problems when one’s spouse has an alcohol problem, they explain in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The results highlight the overall protective effects of marriage, with married men and women having, respectively, a 60% and 71% lower risk for onset of alcohol use disorders compared with individuals who remain single.

However, those married to a person with alcohol use disorder have a significantly higher risk of developing an alcohol problem than single people (men, 29% higher; women, 18% higher).

The researchers note the apparently protective effect of marriage to a person without AUD was more pronounced if the married person had a family history of AUD.

“These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the psychological and social aspects of marriage, and in particular health-monitoring spousal interactions, strongly protect against the development of alcohol use disorder.”

17 May 2016

Last Reviewed: 17/05/2016

Reproduced with kind permission from


Effect of Marriage on Risk for Onset of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Longitudinal and Co-Relative Analysis in a Swedish National Sample