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How to Live Longer: Drink Like Your Sweetheart

How to Live Longer: Drink Like Your Sweetheart

There has been plenty of research that has studied how people’s drinking habits can affect their health and how long they live.


It’s also well established that couples’ drinking habits can affect their relationships. Those with discordant drinking behaviors – say one drinks and one doesn’t, or one drinks to

excess – often report greater conflict and are more likely to get divorced.


In contrast, those with “concordant” – i.e., similar – drinking habits tend to be happier and stay married longer. This isn’t necessarily surprising; they’re sharing similar activities, appear to have similar views towards alcohol, and likely are socializing with each other while drinking.


But what about putting the two concepts together? Can a couple’s drinking also affect their health?  


Investigators from the University of Michigan decided to find out. They wanted to explore whether concordant and discordant drinking behaviors affected couples’ survival rates. For 20 years they studied more than 4,600 married different-sex couples ages 50 and older in the United States. Most were married for an average of 35 years.


They hypothesized that based on recent evidence concordant drinking may be associated with poorer health, such as high blood pressure, and predicted that concordant drinking relationships would have higher mortality rates.


Not so. The couples whose drinking habits were compatible had higher survival rates. The concordant behavior appears to have a positive effect on each other’s health.


In other words, if you want to live longer, drink like your sweetheart.

How to Live Longer: Drink Like Your Sweetheart

Specifically, the researchers found that individuals’ survival rates varied by both their own and their spouses’ drinking habits. Drinking levels were associated not only with individuals’ own mortality but also with the mortality of their partners. Those who both drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol lived longer than those who had discordant drinking habits, or who both drank heavily or not at all. Couples where one didn’t drink and the partner did had the worst survival rates.


“As couples age, spouses or partners may become more invested in having more compatible drinking behaviors that enhance their relationship, which in turn may benefit their health as they age,” the researchers stated.


The investigators warned that the results can’t be reviewed in a vacuum, and that there are “third factors” that could account for the results. For example, it might be that individuals who are healthier to begin with may find it easier to socialize and drink with others. The researchers also noted that healthcare professionals should look at both partners'/spouses' drinking patterns when assessing health.


The study, entitled Alcohol Use and Mortality Among Older Couples in the United States: Evidence of Individual and Partner Effects, was recently published in the Gerontologist.


What Does This Study Mean For Us?


Considering the recent press regarding how alcohol can negatively impact health, this research shows that there’s still much to be learned about the effects of drinking and that the reality is much more nuanced.


But it does seem to indicate that, as some studies have found, moderate drinking can have health benefits, particularly for older people.


The study’s authors do note that more research needs to be conducted to examine links between couples’ drinking patterns and daily health processes and activity.


But as someone with “concordant” drinking habits with my husband, and happily married for 39 years, learning that our drinking together may make us both live longer is a very fun fact.  


Another glass, dear?

How to Live Longer: Drink Like Your Sweetheart

What do you think of this study about how drinking like your sweetheart may make you live longer? Does it dovetail with your knowledge and experience? Send us a message at Always feel free to reach out to us with any questions or feedback.


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