Marriage might really be bliss. A new study released Thursday found that married folks tend to drink less and not in the quantity with which single people partake.
The study found that married people and cohabitating people tend to drink fewer drinks less frequently that single people, who are generally inclined to drink more often in larger quantities.
The overall takeaway of sorts from the study is that "intimate relationships cause a decline in alcohol consumption," lead study author Diana Dinescu, a University of Virginia Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology, said in a press release about the findings.
Dinescu's study looked at drinking patterns for same-sex twins in and out of relationships, composed of 1,618 female pairs and 807 male pairs. The participants told the researchers on forms if they were married, divorced, widowed, separated, never married or living with a partner and included information about their alcohol consumption — how much they drank and how often they drank. The study looked at twins because previous work had already indicated married people generally drink less, but studying twins let the researchers see if that held up when people shared genetic and familial backgrounds.
"It is impossible to tell from correlational research whether marital status has a protective effect, or whether people who naturally drink less simply are more likely to get married," Dinescu said in the press release. "By using twins, our study allows us to eliminate entire classes of alternative explanations, such as genetic predispositions and upbringing influences, and brings us a step closer to understanding the true impact of relationships on drinking behavior."
An interesting ancillary finding in the study published in the Journal of Family Psychology: cohabitating women generally drink the same amount in a sitting as their married counterparts, but cohabitating men generally consume fewer drinks in a sitting than their married counterparts.
Perhaps somewhat depressingly, the study found that the end of relationship makes people more inclined to drink heavily in a session, if not necessarily more frequently.
"Our data revealed an interesting pattern where, once you're in a committed relationship, your drinking frequency declines permanently, whereas quantity goes back up if you exit that relationship," Dinescu said. "It seems that intimate relationships may provide a real benefit in terms of drinking behavior, maybe through mechanisms such as a monitoring effect that partners have on each other."
While it's certainly good to avoid problem drinking, a little wine might go a long ways toward a happy marriage, according to a different study in the Journals of Gerontology. "Researchers found that couples who drink wine together say they are happier over time," wrote the Tribune news service about the study. "Wives reported they were happier when their husbands drank wine and less happy when they didn't."