Kenneth S. Kendler
Longitudinal study findings indicate that alcohol use disorder in one spouse directly increases the risk for alcohol use disorder in the other spouse.
“Spouses resemble one another regarding the amount of alcohol they consume and their risk for alcohol use disorder,” Kenneth S. Kendler, MD, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, and colleagues wrote in JAMA Psychiatry. “However, the degree to which this resemblance results from assortative mating or spousal interaction remains unclear.”
Researchers examined the relationship between first registration for alcohol use disorder in one spouse and the risk for registration in the other spouse among Swedish couples in their first marriages. They also assessed the changes in the risk for alcohol use disorder registration in people married more than once during the transition from a spouse with alcohol use disorder to one without or vice versa. Using data from population-wide Swedish registries, they examined 8,592 couples who had no history of alcohol use disorder prior to their first marriage and alcohol use disorder in one spouse during marriage, and 4,891 people with multiple marriages whose first spouse did not have alcohol use disorder and second spouse did or vice versa.
Among the 8,562 couples in first marriages, the HR of alcohol use disorder registration in wives immediately after the first alcohol use disorder registration in their husbands was 13.82, which rapidly decreased over the first 2 years to 3.75. The short-term increase was smaller in husbands after the first registration in their wives (HR = 9.21), but the risk decreased more slowly than in wives — 3 years later, the HR was 3.09.
Alcohol use disorder in one spouse increases the risk for alcohol risk disorder in the other spouse, according to research findings.
For individuals with multiple marriages who transitioned from a spouse with alcohol use disorder in the first marriage to a spouse without in the second marriage, the HR for registration was 0.5 (95% CI, 0.42-0.59) in women and 0.51 (95% CI, 0.44-0.59) in men; however, after a first marriage to a spouse without alcohol use disorder, the HR for alcohol use disorder after second marriage to a spouse with alcohol use disorder was 7.02 (95% CI, 5.34-9.23) in women and 9.06 (95% CI, 7.55-10.86) in men. After researchers controlled for alcohol use disorder registration prior to first marriage or between first and second marriages, there was little change in risk.
“The risk for [alcohol use disorder] is substantially correlated in marriage partners,” Kendler and colleagues wrote. “Although genetic and biological factors contribute strongly to the predisposition to alcohol dependence, these findings complement our prior work on marriage and divorce in showing how close social bonds such as marriage can also powerfully influence, for better or worse, the risk for [alcohol use disorder].” – by Savannah Demko
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.