Couples Who Drink Together Live Longer, Study Suggests

Similar drinking habits may also mean a happier marriage — as long as no one's overdoing it.

<p>Yana Iskayeva / Getty Images</p>

Yana Iskayeva / Getty Images

Drinking with your partner may be the key to a longer life and a happier marriage, according to a new study.

The research, published in the medical journal The Gerontologist in February 2024, examined the way drinking behaviors impact mortality among opposite-sex spouses. The results are promising if you and your partner enjoy a nightcap, clink glasses for afternoon aperitivo, or share a special bottle of wine.

For twenty years, researchers led by Dr. Kira Birditt at the University of Michigan studied 4,656 married cohabiting different-sex couples over the age of 50 living in the United States. From 1996 through 2016, the participants (9,312 individuals) completed surveys every two years, reporting if they consumed alcohol, and if so, how much.

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The results? “Spouses with concordant (i.e., similar) drinking behaviors often report better quality marriages and are married longer compared with those who report discordant drinking behaviors,” the study concludes. “Analyses revealed concordant drinking spouses (both indicated they drank in the last 3 months) survived longer than discordant drinking spouses (1 partner drinks and the other does not) and concordant nondrinking spouses.”

However, researchers note that these drinking patterns can’t quite account for health implications as these couples age, and as commonly advised by health experts, less is better when it comes to alcohol consumption. “Light drinking predicted better survival rates among individuals and their partners compared with abstaining and heavy drinking,” says the study.

The results align with earlier research, pointing to marital dissatisfaction for couples with misaligned drinking habits. A 2007 study from the American Psychological Association concluded that “discordant patterns of alcohol use were related to lower levels of marital satisfaction” and could lead to violence and the end of a marriage. Heavy drinking, in particular, was bad for both husbands and wives.

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Dr. Birditt, who studies relationships and aging, has a track record of finding that couples who drink together stay together. In 2016, she analyzed data from 2,767 married couples, with 4,864 participants over the age of 50 answering a survey on long-term health and retirement. The results show that people were happiest in their marriages when their drinking habits aligned with their spouse’s. Whether folks were sober or enjoying a social beverage side by side, they reported happier marriages than couples in which drinking habits greatly varied between spouses.

Wives, in particular, were found to be most dissatisfied when one member of the couple typically drank a lot more than the other. This aligns with Dr. Birditt’s most recent research, which shows that wives who drink similarly to their spouses have greater survival rates. Happy wife, happy life really shows up here.

If you’re not drinking at the same rate as your spouse, pause before you set up an alluring home bar. “We’re not suggesting that people should drink more or change the way they drink,” Dr. Birditt told Reuters in 2017. “We’re not sure why this is happening, but it could be that couples that do more leisure time activities together have better marital quality…The study shows that it’s not about how much they’re drinking, it’s about whether they drink at all.” 

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