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Marriage seems to have a sobering effect on men, but it's the opposite with women - they drink more, new research shows.
Researchers with the University of Cincinnati report that married women drink more than long-term divorced or recently widowed women. Married men, however, drink less than divorced men.
The findings, say some sociological experts, could indicate the stresses in long-term marriages - not surprising, considering the spike in the divorce rate among those over age 50.
Lead researcher Corinne Reczek, assistant professor of sociology, and her colleagues collected data from surveys of a random sample of 5,000 older Wisconsin men and women who had been interviewed about alcohol use four times over a 47-year period.
The researchers found that, overall, men drank more than women in all marital categories. But while marriage caused men to moderate their drinking, their wives began drinking more - maybe because they were trying to match their husband's habits, Reczek told the New York Daily News.
Several women in the study even said they didn't drink any alcohol until they met or married their husbands.
Some sociological experts, not involved with the research, said the findings illustrate how we adjust our behavior to match that of those with whom we spend a lot of time.
But others were a tad more cynical, saying the findings could illustrate the difficulties in maintaining a decades-long relationship.
Alcohol use can be an indicator of stress, Donald Catherall, professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, told ABC News.
While marriage appears to lower stress for men, " long-term married women ... apparently derive less stress relief from their marital relationships than do men," Catherall said.
The news wasn't all bad for longtime-married folks. The researchers noted that long-term married women reported fewer drinking-related problems compared with both long-term and recently divorced women.
The study was presented last month at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.
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