New studies show that roles and age can have a dramatic effect on alcoholism. Longitudinal studies of people from 18 to 40 years old have uncovered these results. Some of this is attributed to increased maturity, but other effects are linked to interpersonal relationships.
Quantity of alcoholism changes with age
Researchers did long term studies of people aged 18 to 40 on their drinking habits. The sample included a significant number of children of alcoholics as well. The goal of the study was to quantify the change in their alcohol consumption over time. Researchers follow the study subjects over a number of years and tracked various conditions.
Alcohol consumption decreases naturally
One observation from the study was that people, generally, reduced their alcohol consumption over time. Researchers thought this was attributable to increased maturity as well as the pursuit of more and varied life goals post-tertiary education. People realized that drinking was directly or indirectly keeping them from achieving their goals. The money spent on drink as well as the aftermath of alcohol consumption all served as negative reinforcement to continue a pattern of heavy drinking.
Marriage is a significant factor
Researchers also discovered that marriage was a major factor in the reduction of alcohol. Marriage showed up as a significant predictor of reduced alcohol use. This was an unanticipated discovery. Some had thought that a relationship like marriage would increase stress and lead to more drinking. Others points to some studies that showed that women drank more after marriage.
Marriage slows down even the heavy drinkers
Also surprisingly, marriage had the biggest impact on the heaviest drinkers. The greater the person’s drinking habit before marriage, the larger the reduction after marriage. This also provided another surprise that the closer a drinker was the extreme in their behavior, the more radical their improvement.
Researchers suggest role incompatibility
The change in drinking habits is thought to be associated with role incompatibility. After marriage, the heavy drinker has new demands and a role to fulfill from the relationship. These demands are incompatible with the effects of heavy drinking. So, the person makes a change in lifestyle to fulfill the relationship by giving up heavy drinking.
Experts consider marriage as a treatment for the alcoholics
Researchers intend to take a closer look at the marriage data. They want to discover the more details about the factors of marriage that affect drinking. The researchers see this as opening up additional treatment avenues. By understanding these factors from marriage, researchers hope to develop a dialogue that can be used with people whose drinking is not reducing naturally.
Moderate drinking causes less harm
One of the side points of this research is that people considered to be alcoholic may be able to drink sustainably in moderation. This is a message strongly rejected by many rank and file alcoholics groups. These groups maintain that alcoholics must have complete abstinence. Further, they say that if someone can maintain a stable level of drinking, they were never alcoholic to begin with.
Marriage should be accompanied with other factors to rehab the alcoholics
Other researchers critique this study and feel more is needed. They wonder if the reduction in married individual’s use of alcohol correlates with other factors such as living in an area of lower availability. Other significant factors are exposure to advertising and the lack of negative consequences.
Homebound drinkers consume less alcohol
Whether the results of the study are pure or not, it is still good news that drinking is being reduced. Experts say that beyond hoping for “instant maturity” from marriage, drinkers should curb their drinking. Some suggestions are to monitor how much they drink and how often. Also to realize that drinks made at home, by and large, contain more ounces of alcohol than a drink mixed professionally at a bar or club.
- Age and relationship affect alcoholism.
- Quantify the drinking of alcohol over time.
- People drank less as they got older.
- Marriage is a significant predictor.
- Marriage had the biggest impact on the biggest drinkers.
- Marriage provides a new role that the heavy drinker must fulfill.
- Researchers want to learn from the experience of those reducing their drinking to help others.
- The research contradicts much of the conventional wisdom about alcoholics.
- More study is needed to demonstrate a stronger link between marriage and reduced drinking.
- Experts urge reduced drinking by more careful monitoring of how much you drink.
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