Divorce and the onset of alcohol use disorder: A Swedish population-based longitudinal cohort and co-relative study

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Objective: The purpose of this study was to clarify the magnitude and nature of the relationship between divorce and risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD). Method: In a population-based Swedish sample of married individuals (N=942,366), the authors examined the association between divorce or widowhood and risk for first registration for AUD. AUD was assessed usingmedical, criminal, and pharmacy registries. Results: Divorcewas strongly associatedwith risk for first AUD onset in bothmen (hazard ratio=5.98, 95% CI=5.65-6.33) and women (hazard ratio=7.29, 95% CI=6.72-7.91). The hazard ratio was estimated for AUD onset given divorce among discordant monozygotic twins to equal 3.45 and 3.62 in men andwomen, respectively. Divorcewas also associatedwith an AUD recurrence in those with AUD registrations before marriage. Furthermore,widowhood increased risk for AUD inmen (hazard ratio=3.85, 95% CI=2.81-5.28) and women (hazard ratio=4.10, 95% CI=2.98-5.64). Among divorced individuals, remarriage was associated with a large decline in AUD in both sexes (men: hazard ratio=0.56, 95% CI=0.52-0.64; women: hazard ratio=0.61, 95% CI=0.55-0.69). Divorce produced a greater increase in first AUDonset in thosewith a family history of AUD or with prior externalizing behaviors. Conclusions: Spousal loss through divorce or bereavement is associated with a large enduring increased AUD risk. This association likely reflects both causal and noncausal processes. That the AUD status of the spouse alters this association highlights the importance of spouse characteristics for the behavioral health consequences of spousal loss. The pronounced elevation in AUD risk following divorce or widowhood, and the protective effect of remarriage against subsequent AUD, speaks to the profound impact of marriage on problematic alcohol use.


External organisations
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychiatry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-458
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017 May 1
Publication categoryResearch