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Study shows men drink more, women less, after divorce

It goes without saying that divorce is one of the most stressful experiences life can present. Colorado couples going through the divorce process may have to deal with contentious property division, child custody and child support disputes-not to mention the stress caused by starting life anew without the familiar landmarks of family life. In a high-asset divorce these stressors may be magnified as the parties deal with the division of real estate, business assets and retirement plans. So we would probably assume that both men and women drink more, on average, after a divorce.

A new study provides some data on post-divorce drinking that some may find surprising. The study found that men, on average, tend to drink more after divorce. Women, on the other hand, actually drink less. The study followed 5,000 people who graduated from high school in 1957. The graduates were surveyed periodically throughout the years. Because not enough people in the group stayed single through the entire duration of the study, the researchers looked at divorced people for information on the drinking habits of singles.

The survey responses raise some interesting questions about the relationship between marriage, divorce and alcohol use. For example, the fact that married men tend to drink less than single or divorced men, and married women more than single or divorced women, may mean several things. It may show that after marriage both spouses move toward a similar mid-point in terms of drinking. Or it may show that married men turn to their wives for stress relief, and that married women have additional stressors that single and divorced women do not have. In the interviews, some divorced women said that they were depressed by the divorce and therefore drank less, or that they drank less because they were no longer around their husbands who were drinking.

The study highlights the importance of finding healthy ways to relieve the inevitable stress of divorce, especially for men. Whether it is exercise, a hobby or spending more time with friends, former and soon-to-be-former husbands should make an effort to find an outlet for stress that isn't as personally and socially destructive as heavy drinking.

Source: ABC News, "Marriage Means More Drinking for Women, Less for Men" Dr. Shari Barnett and Dr. Swati Shroff, Aug. 20, 2012

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