If you’re a drunk, you’re probably married to one, too, new research published today in JAMA hints.
And if you’re not a drunk, but your spouse is, you have a good chance of becoming one eventually.
In a first of its kind study on Swedes, researchers analyzed more than 8,500 husband-wife pairs. They discovered that upon a spouse’s diagnosis of alcoholic use disorder, or AUD, the other spouse’s chances of developing AUD skyrocket before leveling back off after a couple of years.
“The increase in risk for AUD registration in a married individual following a first AUD registration in the spouse is large and rapid,” the researchers concluded. “When an individual with serial spouses is married, in either order, to partners with vs without an AUD registration, the risk for AUD registration is substantially increased when the partner has an AUD registration and decreased when the partner does not have an AUD registration.
“These results suggest that a married individual’s risk for AUD is directly and causally affected by the presence of AUD in his or her spouse.”
The study included nuptials born between 1960 and 1990. Women were more likely to slide into AUD after their husbands did, rather than the other way around.
“We identified 5883 marital pairs in which the husband first developed AUD and 2679 marital pairs in which the wife first developed AUD, as well as matching samples of control pairs, reported the authors in a JAMA original investigation. “First onsets of AUD in both wives and husbands were much greater in pairs in which the spouse had an AUD onset than when the spouse did not. Furthermore, that increase was especially concentrated in the first year after spousal onset of AUD. “
What else happens when one spouse drinks heavily and the other doesn’t, according to the research?
“Early phases of problematic drinking in a married individual might increase risk both for divorce and selection of another marital partner with heavy drinking,” according to the authors.
“The chances that this problem produces biases in our findings is reduced by our showing that controlling for AUD registration between marriages had little effect on the predisposing effect of moving from a first spouse without AUD to a second spouse with AUD.”
A while back, a chain of treatment centers hired me to write all of the web copy for CouplesRehab.com. I was excited to take on this project, because “couples rehab” has been frowned upon by the behavioral health establishment for years. Heaven forbid we meet the alcoholic or the addict where they are and help them get sober on their own terms.
I suspect this piece will garner one of two reactions: “Duh,” or “BS.”
Concluded the Swedish authors:
“Although genetic and biological factors contribute strongly to the predisposition to alcohol dependence, these findings complement our prior work on marriage and divorce in showing how close social bonds such as marriage can also powerfully influence, for better or worse, the risk for AUD.”
Until next time.