Similar drinking habits in couples linked to longer life

Alcohol use and mortality in older couples in the US.


Researcher Kira Birditt from the University of Michigan suggests that couples who drink alcohol together might also live longer together. Her research, published in The Gerontologist, shows that couples with similar drinking patterns typically live longer. 

This research supports the idea of “the drinking partnership” in the literature on alcohol, which postulates that couples who have comparable drinking habits enjoy better marital outcomes, such as fewer arguments and longer marriages.

The effects of drinking habits on marriage outcomes have been extensively studied; however, the effects on health need to be more evident. According to Birditt, marital-friendly behaviors aren’t always health-promoting.

Birditt said, “The purpose of this study was to look at alcohol use in couples in the Health and Retirement Study and the implications for mortality. And we found, interestingly, that couples in which both indicated drinking alcohol in the last three months lived longer than the other couples that either both indicated not drinking or had discordant drinking patterns in which one drank, and the other did not.”

Birditt warns against interpreting the study as a suggestion to drink more with your partner. The research examined broad drinking patterns, simply considering whether a participant had a drink in the last three months. However, it highlights how partners can affect one another’s health

Similar drinking patterns could be a sign of lifestyle, intimacy, and relationship satisfaction match. According to Birditt, drinking together frequently results in higher-quality relationships as a result of more intimacy.

Birditt recommends conducting additional studies to better understand how couples‘ alcohol use affects their relationship. She wishes to investigate why drinking with a companion improves survival. By using techniques like daily experiences and questionnaires, researchers can delve into the daily lives of concordant drinking couples. They aim to understand their drinking activities and how they affect their relationship. 

Birditt also highlights the need to examine the regular human interactions that affect these connections. Future studies should explore the effects of drinking habits on everyday marital satisfaction and physical health results.

Couples with similar drinking habits may experience longer lifespans, highlighting the potential influence of shared behaviors on health outcomes.

Journal reference:

  1. Kira S Birditt, Angela Turkelson et al. Alcohol Use and Mortality Among Older Couples in the United States: Evidence of Individual and Partner Effects. The Gerontologist. DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnad101.
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