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While previous research has already shown that married adults drink less than those who are single or divorced, the new study, by the University of Virginia along with the University of Southern California and Washington State University, believes it may have found a reason why.
"It is impossible to tell from correlational research whether marital status has a protective effect, or whether people who naturally drink less simply are more likely to get married," said lead author Diana Dinescu from the University of Virginia.
Dinescu and her team looked at the the behaviors of 2,425 same-sex twin pairs to control for genetic and familial backgrounds, whereas past studies have selected particpants more randomly which could affect results.
The team also looked at the effects of co-habiting as well as of being married.
Data was taken from the Washington State Twin Registry, a database of twins who participate in health and behavior research.
Participants provided information on whether they were married, divorced, widowed, separated, never married or living with a partner, as well as how frequently they drank and the amount of alcohol they consumed when drinking.
Comparing the drinking habits of married twins with the single, divorced and cohabitating co-twins, the team found that married co-twins drank less often than their single or divorced co-twins, and consumed less when they were drinking, confirming previous studies.
However, the team also found that drinking habits did not differ among married and cohabiting twins, leading them to conclude that there is strong evidence that it is being in a committed relationship, and not being married, that causes a decline in alcohol consumption.
Dinescu explained that a possible reason behind the results is that partners have a "monitoring effect" on each other.
Perhaps less surprisingly, the results also showed that drinking habits increase once a relationship ends. But though the results did suggest that individuals may drink a larger quantity in a session, they don't necessarily drink more frequently.
The findings can be found online in theJournal of Family Psychology.