People whose spouse develops an alcohol use disorder are dramatically more likely to develop one themselves, especially in the first two years, new research shows.
Women whose spouse becomes an alcoholic are almost 14 times more likely than the general public to develop a drinking problem in the immediate aftermath. The hazard ratio drops considerably after two years, but such women remain three to four times more likely to engage in problem drinking as the average.
Men whose spouse develops an alcohol disorder are nine times more likely to develop one themselves, dropping to three times after two years.
Interestingly, the study also compared first and second marriages. People who marry a partner who becomes an alcoholic after leaving a spouse who was not an alcoholic are seven to nine times more likely to develop a problem themselves. By contrast, people who marry a non-alcoholic partner after leaving an alcoholic one are far less likely to develop a problem than the general population.
The study’s examination of first and second marriages is important, because comparing the risk of the same person developing a problem in different marriages largely eliminates the possible effect of other socio-economic variables.