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Alcohol Relapse More Common In People Who Get A Divorce

Alcohol relapse more common in divorceA new study has found that the act of divorce causes those with a history of alcohol dependence to relapse within three years after the fact.

The findings come from a joint study involving researchers at the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health; Columbia University; Department of Psychiatry, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons; and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.


Researchers examined the results from two interviews about three years apart to come to the findings. From the study abstract:

“We examined associations between stressful life events and relapse among adults in the United States with at least one year of remission from DSM-IV alcohol dependence,” the authors note. “The sample consisted of individuals in remission from alcohol dependence at the Wave 1 interview (2001-2002) for the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) who also participated in a Wave 2 interview (2004-2005; N 1,707).”

According to the results, “respondents who were divorced or separated in the year preceding the baseline assessment (Wave 1) were over two times more likely (OR = 2.32; CI = 1.01-5.34) to have relapsed three years later (Wave 2), compared to those not experiencing a divorce/separation in the 12 months prior to Wave 1.”

No other life events resulted in relapse.

The Takeaway

The study’s authors note that “These results highlight the need for social work practitioners to consider the possibility of relapse following a divorce when one or both partners have a history of alcohol dependence.”

Prior studies of those who’ve had a partner file for divorce indicate that depression is often a large part of the fallout, particularly as it relates to men. Women tend to bounce back better and initiate more courtroom and do-it-yourself divorce procedures.

If you’ve reached the point of filing for divorce — whether it be online or as part of a DIY divorce action — make sure that you’re aware of the substance abuse risks that can occur as a result. Lean on family and friends and seek counseling before taking that first drink.

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