Saturday, May 18, 2013

SATURDAY REWIND: Liquid divorce, or three of alcohol's impacts on sex and relationships

June is traditionally the big month for weddings. I pulled three articles from my news archive that demonstrate how alcohol use disorders can doom the "I do's" years later.

Divorce is predictable (article)
Couples who drink together may not stay together according to a study posted in the May 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The study concludes that divorce is more likely, though not by as much, if the couples drink about the same amount of alcohol, compared to couples who don't drink, study lead author Fartein Torvik of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said.

The massive study included nearly 20,000 couples in one county who were surveyed over a 15-year period. The researchers found that heavy drinking by the men or women increased the risk of divorce, even after adjusting to remove "light drinkers." No determination was made about alcohol abuse or the disease of alcoholism. The institute found that even when they filtered out demographic factors and mental distress, heavy alcohol use by one or both spouses was a predictor for dissolution of marriage.

The likelihood of divorce was especially high when only the woman drank. A different study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Society in January concluded that men drink less after saying “I do” and women drink more. That study noted that being married to a man who is more likely to drink creates a new social environment that may promote drinking among women.

Torvik noted in a statement about the Norwegian study, "The risk of divorce is estimated to be tripled when the husband's level of drinking is low and the wife's drinking is heavy, compared with couples where both drink lightly."

The research found that couples where neither spouse drank had lower probability of divorce. "This study demonstrated that both the level of alcohol use and compatibility in alcohol use are important predictors of marital dissolution," the journal wrote as a conclusion.

Women drink more after marriage (article)
Men – or marriage – can drive women to drink. Women consume more alcohol after they say “I do” while men actually cut down after marriage, a January 22 study found.

Men are more likely than women to hit the bottle after a divorce, according to the survey into marriage and alcohol conducted by sociologists at four universities. The study was based on surveys of 5,000 men and women conducted over 47 years.

Lead researcher Corinne Reczek, professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati, said, “Stable marriage curbs men’s drinking, yet is associated with a slightly higher level of alcohol use among women. Our findings suggest that being married to a man who is more likely to drink creates a new social environment that may promote drinking among women.”
Reczek added, “Some research suggests that men are more likely to cope with stressors in “externalizing” ways such as drinking more alcohol, possibly contributing to alcohol abuse or the disease of alcoholism. Women are more likely to cope in “internalizing” ways such as depression rather than alcohol abuse.

The study found that while husbands drank less alcohol than single men and widowers, their consumption increased sharply if the marriage ended. Reczek insisted that men who fail to converge with their wives’ drinking habits in marriage may set a trajectory towards divorce and continued heavy drinking.

Men who cut back on drinking are more likely to have a happier marriage.

The study findings were presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

SEX (article)
Men who want to avoid taking erectile dysfunction drugs such as Cialis might want to back off the booze. Drinking alcohol can cause lasting damage to men's sexual performance even after abstaining from the drinking, a newly published study suggests.

Researchers said men can suffer "brewer's droop" for more than a year after giving up heavy drinking. Spanish physicians asked personal questions of 109 men from nine different treatment facilities over two years. The men were questioned while they were heavy drinkers and when they had scaled back their intake. The research found alcohol had a residual effect that lasted many months.

Academics from Santo Tomas University in Colombia and the University of Granada in Spain said their results “partially contradict those of other authors who argued that alcohol causes transient erectile dysfunction.” Results show that, overall, all dimensions (pleasure, desire, arousal and orgasm) were moderately impaired. Pleasure and orgasm were the two areas most significantly impaired. After even two weeks of abstinence, no relationship was found between drug abstinence and improvement in sexual functioning.

Writing in the January online “early view” of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, they noted: “It does not seem to be just a temporary problem, because erectile ability was still affected after a year and, according to the results, did not seem likely to improve just with [alcohol] abstinence.”

The researchers also found that heavy drinkers tended to enjoy sex less than those who only drank moderately, and were less likely to want sex.

They wrote: “Alcohol users were found to have lower pleasure scores. To the best of our knowledge, no previous studies have related alcohol consumption with impaired sexual pleasure.” The research backs up years of speculation about alcohol use disorders and how they affect male performance and overall reproductive health.

Alcohol acts a fairly efficient chemical solvent to dissolve adhesives, oil residue and paint.  It's also fairly effective at dissolving jobs, respect, self-esteem and bank accounts.  These three unrelated studies demonstrate how alcohol dissolves relationships as well.  The last of the three articles is purely a physiological side-effect from alcohol consumption, the first two articles show how the physical/psychological/sociological/legal/professional/financial consequences of alcohol misuse will dissolve a relationship.  Sometimes, it's easy to blame the other spouse for "driving us to drink."  In fact, that drink might be driving him or her out.