Do Single People Drink More? Yes, But It's Complicated
Despite popular belief, singletons don't spend every Saturday crying into a bottle of vodka about their meaningless garbage lives (or at least, not any more so than the average person). That being said, recent research from the University of Virginia isn't doing much to dispel stereotypes surrounding the solo life: According to a study, single people do drink more than their married or cohabitating counterparts — so maybe don't bring up this article over family dinner unless you want to get the patented Parental Disappointment Face.
Although it's a fascinating area of study, psychologists have a surprisingly difficult time pinpointing the effects marriage has on other areas of your life. As the Washington Post points out, comparing the lives of people before and after matrimony fails to separate marriage from the simple facts of aging, and the factors that lead to one person being single and another being married are incredibly complicated. Fortunately, that's where twins come in — their identical genetic material and similar childhoods are a research psychologist's dream.
In University of Virginia's study, researchers compared the drinking habits and relationship statuses of more than 2,000 same-sex twins who had participated in the Washington State Twin Registry, and the results will make you want to grab the nearest bottle of wine for comfort. According to their analysis, single or divorced twins drank the most in terms of quantity and frequency.
However, the results are a little complicated. Married participants drank the least overall, followed by those who lived with their partners, with a few caveats. Although they were in relationships, cohabitating participants drank more frequently than married couples, but married men drank more in one sitting than men who had live-in partners. Furthermore, when researchers looked at the drinking habits of divorced twins, a particularly interesting finding turned up: People who had been in a committed relationship didn't drink more frequently than married people, but they tended to drink more at a single sitting.
This doesn't necessarily mean that married men and divorced people are more likely to binge drink, but it's certainly an avenue of research worth exploring. It's worth noting that binge drinking doesn't foretell marital disaster on its own; according to a 2013 study, couples in which only one person drinks heavily are more likely to divorce than couples where both people are heavy drinkers. The source of strife seems to be differences in alcohol consumption rather than the consumption itself.
However, numerous studies have shown that married people appear to drink less than single people, which likely owes itself to a complicated tangle of factors. In this particular case, researchers at the University of Virginia attributed their findings to the "monitoring effect" couples have on each other. "It seems that intimate relationships may provide a real benefit in terms of drinking behavior," lead author Diana Dinescu said, according to Science Daily.
Basically, if you're single, you may not have a live-in partner who keeps an eye on your drinking the way that long-term couples do. Whether you find that freeing or depressing is up to you, but either way, it's a revelation that would go great with some Pinot Noir.
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