by Maggie Gallagher
Married people live healthier, happier, and longer lives, on average. They are better off financially and even have sex more often.
But skeptics persistently wonder whether it is marriage itself that makes people healthier or whether it is just an illusion, a marker for something else.
That debate will continue as long as liberals believe that sexual diversity is the key to human flourishing. But a new study from Sweden adds powerful new evidence that divorce hurts — and marriage helps — people live healthier lives.
Sweden has a national registry system that allows scholars to look at essentially every single Swede — not a sample, the whole population.
And in a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, scholars were able to look at every married couple among Swedes born between 1960 and 1990 and examine the relationship of divorce and remarriage to first onset of alcohol use disorder.
They found divorced men were six times more likely to abuse alcohol, and divorced women seven times more likely to abuse alcohol. The widowed (rare in these younger age groups) were about four times more likely to abuse alcohol for the first time:
Looking at two cohorts married at ages 18–25 and 26–35 separately in males and females, we saw broadly similar patterns. Not unexpectedly, an increased risk for AUD onset began a few years prior to the divorce, which is consistent with marital dissolution reflecting a process rather than just a discrete event (28). But in both sexes and in both age groups, the risk for AUD increased substantially in the year of the divorce and remained elevated for many years in those who did not remarry.
Remarriage by contract was associated with “a substantial decline” in risk of first onset of alcohol use disorder.
I wrote a book 17 years ago with scholar Linda Waite, The Case for Marriage. And now the data keeps pouring in. It’s time to admit it: marriage is good for people.