Spousal support can prevent alcohol abuse

family law

A lack of spousal support can lead people to develop alcohol problems following their divorce, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the United States and Lund University in southern Sweden analysed data from 942,366 married people. Each subject was born between 1960 and 1990 and none of them had any history of alcohol-related problems prior to their marriage. The research was a follow up to a 2016 collaboration between the two universities.  The previous study indicated that people’s risk of alcoholism drops when they marry.

During this newly published research, the academics identified a strong link between divorce and the onset of such problems. Men’s risk of alcohol problems increased six times after their marriage had ended and women’s risk was seven times higher.

Lead author Kenneth Kendler is a psychiatry and human and molecular genetics professor at VCU’s School of Medicine. He said that the risk of problems increases because there is no longer someone around to monitor a person’s behaviour.

Kendler explained that married couples “tend to look out for each other and reduce dangerous behaviors [sic] like smoking and drinking”. So while people may think the stress of divorce drives people to drink excessively it’s actually the “loss of the protective elements of marriage” which is mostly to blame he said, adding that this supports the findings of their previous study.

The results of this research could help improve treatments for alcoholism, Kendler hoped, adding that saving people’s marriages “would likely have a stronger affect in preventing alcohol use disorder” than efforts to stop the problem after a divorce has taken place.

These are the latest studies to identify a link between a loss of companionship and ill health. In 2015 research from the University of Arizona suggested that divorced people were 25 per cent more likely to die young than those who are married.

The VCU/Lund study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Photo by Charles Thompson via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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