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Divorcing An Alcoholic Husband Reduces the Woman’s Risk for Alcoholism

Posted in Women

Women who divorce alcoholic husbands reduce their chances of developing alcoholism themselves, and increase their chances of recovery if they too are problem drinkers, according to a new study from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University of Buffalo.

Dr. Gregory Homish and his colleagues went through data collected on 43,093 people enrolled in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Over 18,410 married or cohabitating women participated in the studies, which included two different interviews in which respondents answered questions about their partners’ and their own drinking habits.

Women in the study who were married to problem drinkers were more likely to be younger, less educated, and of lower income than their partners. They were also more likely to end their marriages than non-drinkers in the study. Once divorced, they tended to drink less alcohol than they did when they were married.

However, the opposite was true for women married to non-problem drinkers. This group tended to increase their consumption of alcohol after being divorced. As the researchers wrote in their report, there was a drastic difference between the two groups.

"The results suggested that women ending their relationship with the problem drinking partner exhibited improvements in drinking outcomes at follow-up," Dr. Homish’s team wrote. "Women ending their relationship with the non-problem drinker displayed the expected pattern of increased risk."

The study appears in the journal Addiction.

Previous studies have indicated that newly-divorced people, regardless of gender, education, and other factors, are at an increased risk for developing problems with alcohol, and that single people in general have higher rates of alcoholism than married people. Problem drinking is one of the most frequent reasons people give to explain why their marriages ended, perhaps because alcoholism is associated with job loss, domestic violence, and problems with legal authorities, money, and sex.