Differences in drinking habits increases risk of divorce

May 26, 2016  |   Posted by :   |   Blog


The university of Buffalo has conducted a study to research the effects of drinking on the rate of divorce and found that when there is a notably discrepancy between a couple’s drinking habits, the likelihood of divorce is higher.

The study followed 634 couples over the first nine years of marriage, recording the drinking habits of each party. Results suggest that when a couple’s habits are similar, the rate of divorce is lower than when one party drinks more heavily than the other. In couples where one member drank significantly more, the rate of divorce was approximately 50% within the first nine years. However, for those with equal levels of drinking, the rate of divorce was found to be approximately 30%. Interestingly, this rate remained the same whether a couple were teetotal, light drinkers, or even when both parties were heavy drinkers. ‘Heavy drinking’ was defined in the study as drinking more than six drinks per night, or becoming intoxicated.

Kenneth Leonard, PhD, RIA director and lead author of the study explained: “Our results indicate that it is the difference between the couple’s drinking habits, rather than the drinking itself, that leads to marital dissatisfaction, separation and divorce.”

In the case of couples where both members drank heavily, the researchers were surprised to find that the rate of divorce was the same as couples who didn’t drink. Leonard suggested this was because “heavy drinking spouses may be more tolerant of negative experiences related to alcohol due to their own drinking habits.” The researchers emphasised, however, that heavy drinking has serious implications and negative effects on the health of individuals and the wellbeing of children.

It is hoped that the study’s results will be used to help marriage counsellors and mental health professionals to support clients facing these issues. Unreasonable behaviour is the most commonly cited reason for divorce in the UK, and alcohol abuse is unfortunately an all-too-common cause for couples to seek separation. And when a couple’s drinking habits are notably different, it’s easy to see how the study’s results demonstrate a higher rate of divorce.


If you need to speak to a family law solicitor about unreasonable behaviour, or the various options for separation, contact Frances Lindsay & Co online at or by calling 01628 634667. We have offices in Beaconsfield and Maidenhead, and offer fixed-fee legal services across the whole of the Thames Valley, including Windsor, Henley, Gerards Cross, High Wycombe and Marlow.


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