Study finds divorce increases risk for developing alcohol use disorders

February 1, 2017 by Anne Dreyfuss, Virginia Commonwealth University
Study finds divorce increases risk for developing alcohol use disorders
Credit: Virginia Commonwealth University

Divorce is causally related to a significant increase in risk for development of alcohol use disorders, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden.

The study, titled "Divorce and the Onset of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Swedish Population-Based Longitudinal Cohort and Co-Relative Study," was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Jan. 20. It found strong causal associations between divorce and the subsequent onset of alcohol use disorder, with the rates of the first onset of alcohol use disorder increasing after divorce around sixfold in men and more than sevenfold in women.

"The study shows that interpersonal relationships can have a profound influence on risk for alcohol use disorder," said first author Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., professor of psychiatry and human and molecular genetics in the Department of Psychiatry, VCU School of Medicine. "Social factors are really important."

The study is an extension of a study that the same research team published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in May, which showed that is causally related to a significant reduction in risk for development of alcohol use . That study found that marriage might help protect against alcohol use problems.

As with the prior study, the study on alcohol use disorder and divorce found that the cause for increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder after a marriage dissolves can be definitively tied to the loss of the protective elements of marriage. "Married partners tend to look out for each other and reduce dangerous behaviors like smoking and drinking," Kendler said. "It is not the stress of the divorce that is predominantly causing the increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder. It is the loss of the protective elements of marriage."

The research team published a study in the journal Addiction in December, which explored the genetic and environmental factors that account for the correlation between alcohol use disorder and divorce.

The more recent study is a complementary analysis of the study published in May, showing that spousal loss through divorce is associated with a large and enduring increase in risk for alcohol use disorder. The study was based on a population-based Swedish sample of 942,366 married individuals born between 1960 and 1990 who were married and residing with their spouse in or after 1990 and had no personal history of alcoholism prior to marriage. The correlative design of the study supported the conclusion of the causal effect of divorce on the development of alcoholism.

"This important work by Dr. Kendler and his team has far-reaching implications and is from a longstanding and highly productive international collaboration," said Peter F. Buckley, M.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine.

The results could help in the development of effective social treatments to combat the disease.

"If a person is about to get a divorce, you could spend a lot of time tuning their medication, but if you could preserve the marriage you would likely have a stronger affect in preventing alcohol use disorder," Kendler said. "We have put the causal effect of on use disorder development on firm scientific basis."

The research team is currently engaged in a follow-up study that examines how having children impacts the development of .

"We are still digging away at this rich and informative line of research," Kendler said.

Explore further: Study finds marriage protects against risk for developing alcohol use disorders

More information: Kenneth S. Kendler et al. Divorce and the Onset of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Swedish Population-Based Longitudinal Cohort and Co-Relative Study, American Journal of Psychiatry (2017). DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16050589

Related Stories

Study finds marriage protects against risk for developing alcohol use disorders

May 17, 2016
Marriage is causally related to a significant reduction in risk for development of alcohol use disorders, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden.

Study investigates genetic, environmental factors in alcohol use disorder and divorce

December 21, 2016
Alcohol use disorder and divorce are strongly correlated, meaning that experiencing one makes it more likely to experience the other in one's lifetime, according to a new study led by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth ...

Study finds resilience protects against risk for developing alcohol use disorders

December 7, 2016
Resilience considerably reduces risk for developing alcohol use disorders, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden.

Baby boomers on a bender: Emerging trends in alcohol binge and use disorders among older adults

December 12, 2016
Alcohol is the most commonly used psychoactive substance among older adults, and this group can have unique risks associated with alcohol consumption—in even lower amounts—compared to younger persons.

Kids with bipolar disorder more likely to abuse drugs, alcohol: study

September 16, 2016
(HealthDay)—For some teens with bipolar disorder, the risk that they will abuse alcohol and drugs may increase as they get older, a new study suggests.

Recommended for you

Study of 800 million tweets finds distinct daily cycles in our thinking patterns

June 20, 2018
Our mode of thinking changes at different times of the day and follows a 24-hour pattern, according to new findings published in PLOS ONE. University of Bristol researchers were able to study our thinking behaviour by analysing ...

Mind wandering is fine in some situations, study says

June 20, 2018
It's a common experience for most students. You're sitting in a lecture that covers material you already know, and before long your mind drifts and you become occupied with thoughts of what you'll do over the weekend, or ...

Opioid overdose survivors face continued health challenges, higher death rate

June 20, 2018
Survivors of opioid overdose are at great risk of dying in the year after overdose, but the deaths are not always caused by drug use, a new study reveals. In addition to succumbing to drug use, survivors were much more likely ...

Around the world, people have surprisingly modest notions of the 'ideal' life

June 20, 2018
It seems reasonable that people would want to maximize various aspects of life if they were given the opportunity to do so, whether it's the pleasure they feel, how intelligent they are, or how much personal freedom they ...

Say cheese! Why a toothy smile makes it easier for you to be identified

June 19, 2018
A fulsome smile in a photo makes it easier for people to identify the individual, say researchers at the University of York.

Mental health declining among disadvantaged American adults

June 19, 2018
American adults of low socioeconomic status report increasing mental distress and worsening well-being, according to a new study by Princeton University and Georgetown University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.