Married couples who drink similar amounts of alcohol are happier on average than in which only one partner drinks.
US researchers reached this conclusion after analysing lifestyle data from a nationally representative sample of 2,767 couples aged over 50. All had been together for lengthy periods – on average 33 years. The participants answered questions about their drinking habits over a period of ten years.
They found the happiest levels of marital happiness amongst couples in which both partners liked a drink – more than half the participants – or couples in which both abstained. Conversely dissatisfaction was highest amongst couples with a mismatch in their appetite for alcohol. Wives were less likely to drink than their husbands but also more likely to be unhappy if their spouse was a teetotaller and they were not.
Speaking to Reuters Health, lead research Dr Kira Birditt of the University of Michigan said:
“The study shows that it’s not about how much they’re drinking, it’s about whether they drink at all.”
The connection suggested the importance of shared interests for a healthy marriage, she added.
“We’re not sure why this is happening, but it could be that couples that do more leisure time activities together have better marital quality.”
Dr Birditt stressed that the results should not be seen as an endorsement of alcohol consumption.
“We’re not suggesting that people should drink more or change the way they drink.”
The study was published in the academic publication Journals of Gerontology B: Psychological Sciences.