New study reveals one surprising key component to a happy marriage

I’ll start today’s Daily Dispatch about the health effects of alcohol with a bad joke.

A couple walks into a party. The host says to the wife, “my dear, you look dazzling this evening. And it’s not the alcohol talking — I’ve only had one drink.” The husband turns to the host and says, “I know — and just imagine how good she looks after two drinks.”

All joking aside, a recent study gives us new insight into the role alcohol consumption can play in a marriage. I’ll tell you about that interesting study in a moment. But first, let’s back up.

Alcohol induces relaxation and lowers stress

The science clearly shows that moderate alcohol consumption has many health benefits, including lower heart disease rates. But these findings just don’t sit well with some nanny state public health professionals.

In fact, 20 years ago, they invented a term to explain the fact that men and women who drink moderately have lower heart disease rates. They called it “The French Paradox” because it conflicts with their politically correct theory that all alcohol consumption is bad. But there is no paradox if you look at the science.

On the flip side, we have some natural “know-it-alls” who accept the science, but continue to look for some “magic bullet” ingredient like resveratrol in red wine to explain the benefits of alcohol.

But they’re wasting their time.

Other alcoholic beverages such as beer (as we discussed in last week’s Daily Dispatch), which doesn’t contain resveratrol, offer the same benefits as wine.

As I have always said, alcohol lowers heart disease risk simply because it reduces stress, the single greatest silent killer of our time, and offers relaxation for both body and mind.

But none of this evidence stops some nanny state public health experts.

As I warned you last year, some nanny state experts still call for prohibition of alcohol because some people drink to excess and develop health problems as a result. They apply this same kind of argument to control the citizens and take away other individual rights. But you won’t hear them mention the studies showing that non-drinkers have higher heart disease rates, compared to moderate drinkers.

Social drinking is the key

There is another central aspect to drinking that has been less studied, but is equally important: the effect of social drinking.

As I always report, human being are social animals. We need social interaction, especially as we get older. So moderate drinking in a social setting offers many health and mental benefits. Plus, as I reported a few years ago, the founding fathers accomplished more of the real work for the American Revolution in local taverns as they did in state halls.

On the other hand, drinking alone can signal danger. In addition, heavy alcohol use can negatively affect the quality of a marriage among younger couples. In fact, some research links heavy alcohol use among younger couples with negative marital quality over time. These influences may relate to the dangers of co-dependency with the abuse of any substance.

But in a more recent study, researchers looked at drinking patterns among older, more mature married couples — and what they found wasn’t too surprising if you’ve ever been married.

For this study, researchers analyzed data on alcohol consumption and marital quality in married couples between 2006 and 2008 and 2010 and 2012. They asked participants about the amount of alcohol they consumed per week, as well as measures of negative marital quality such as criticism and demands.

They found men and women with similar drinking habits reported better marital quality over time. The effect was stronger among wives. In other words, wives who reported drinking alcohol had better martial quality when husbands also reported drinking. On the other hand, if one spouse or the other had significantly different drinking habits, it engendered criticisms and demands that contributed to poor marital quality. (A personal observation: If you have ever observed the attitudes and character of people who insist on prohibition for everyone, you can imagine the results of trying to live with them.)

Of course, marital status and good marital quality positively affect health and longevity especially in older age. (Although husbands seem to reap somewhat more health benefits than wives statistically.)

But these results support my view that moderate drinking can reduce stress and contribute to happiness — in general, and within a marriage, which is perhaps the ultimate example of social drinking.


“Drinking Patterns Among Older Couples: Longitudinal Associations With Negative Marital Quality,” J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci ( 6/24/201619