Married? Let’s Drink to That. Or Not.

There have been studies out showing the health benefits—or the risks—of marriage. Just over the past few years we’ve learned, for example, that married people generally have healthier eating habits and are less likely to die prematurely than unmarried people. And we know that single and divorced men drink more alcohol than married men. But a new study now finds that being married may have very different effects on men and women. In short, the researchers say, marriage reduces drinking in men but drives women to drink.

It comes down to this: married men and women affect each other’s behavior. Overall, men drink more than women, but after getting married, women increase their drinking a little to get more in line with their husbands. Men, on the other hand, reduce their drinking to get more in line with their wives.

We’ll be hearing a lot more about this study over the next few months, as the media picks it up. Pay attention to how the information is presented and how gender politics slips in almost unnoticed. For example, one article had these choice lines:

  • “… the latest findings suggest that husbands are to blame for their wives’ drinking,” and
  • “Researchers conclude that while women tend to help keep their husbands’ drinking habits under control, men are simply a bad influence on their wives.”

The problem with statements like that is that (a) they perpetuate the common political stereotype that men=bad, women=good, (b) there is zero scientific evidence that men are forcing their bad habits on women, (c) they completely overlook the fact that men still drink more than women do—and suffer for it, and (c) these comments are demeaning to women by suggesting that women aren’t responsible for their own actions.

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