To assess the relationship between first marriage and subsequent record of AUD, Kenneth Kendler, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and human and molecular genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed data contained in a variety of Swedish national birth, health, and crime registries. Of the 3,220,628 individuals included in the sample, 72,252 met the criteria for alcohol use disorder.
The authors found that married men and women had, respectively, a 60% and 71% lower risk for onset of alcohol use disorder compared with individuals who remained single.
“While marriage to a spouse without lifetime registration for alcohol use disorder was strongly protective, marriage to an affected spouse significantly increased the risk for future alcohol use disorder,” the authors wrote. Additional analysis revealed that the protective effects of marriage were stronger in those at high familial risk for alcohol use disorder compared with those without.
“The protective effects of marriage on risk for alcohol use disorder are likely to arise largely from direct spousal interactions, and they are stronger in individuals who have an elevated familial risk for alcoholism,” the authors wrote. “While causal effects are difficult to prove in observational data, and we cannot rule out the impact of hidden biases, these results are consistent with the hypothesis that the psychological and social aspects of marriage strongly protect against the development of alcohol use disorder.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Why Treat Alcohol Use Disorders in Primary Care?”