Cheers to Longevity: Couples Who Drink Together, Live Longer

Summary: Couples with similar drinking habits, specifically those who both consume alcohol, tend to live longer than those who don’t share the same drinking patterns. This finding draws on “the drinking partnership” theory, suggesting that shared alcohol consumption correlates with improved marital outcomes and possibly, greater longevity.

While the study stops short of endorsing increased alcohol consumption among couples, it highlights the significance of shared lifestyle habits on health and relationship satisfaction. The research, part of the Health and Retirement study, followed 4,656 couples over two decades, providing a comprehensive look at the long-term implications of mutual drinking habits on life span.

Key Facts:

  1. Shared Drinking Habits Linked to Longevity: Couples who both drink alcohol tend to live longer compared to those with discordant drinking habits or who abstain altogether.
  2. Impact on Relationship Quality: Concordant drinking couples report higher relationship satisfaction, potentially due to increased intimacy and shared activities.
  3. Groundbreaking Longitudinal Study: The research analyzed data from the Health and Retirement study, tracking 4,656 couples from 1996 to 2016, underscoring the robustness of the findings.

Source: University of Michigan

In a recent study published in The Gerontologist, Kira Birditt, research professor at the U-M Institute for Social Resarch’s Survey Research Center, found that couples who are concordant in their drinking behavior (that is, both members drink alcohol) tend to live longer. 

She says a theory in alcohol literature called “the drinking partnership,” where couples who have similar patterns of alcohol use tend to have better marital outcomes (such as less conflict and longer marriages), was the inspiration behind the study. 

This shows a couple with champagne glasses.
Birditt would like to explore further questions related to couples’ alcohol consumption and how it affects their relationship. Credit: Neuroscience News

Although a great deal of research has examined the implications of couples’ drinking patterns for marital outcomes, the implications for health are less clear. Behaviors that are good for marriage are not necessarily good for health, Birditt says. 

“The purpose of this study was to look at alcohol use in couples in the Health and Retirement Study and the implications for mortality,” she said.

“And we found, interestingly, that couples in which both indicated drinking alcohol in the last three months lived longer than the other couples that either both indicated not drinking or had discordant drinking patterns in which one drank and the other did not.” 

And while it may sound like that’s a recommendation to drink more with your spouse, Birditt cautions against that reading. 

The study specifically looked at drinking patterns and defined “drinking” very broadly, examining whether or not a participant had had a drink within the last three months. However, it may suggest the importance of remembering how spouses can impact each other’s health.

Drinking concordance among couples may be a reflection of compatibility among partners in their lifestyles, intimacy and relationship satisfaction.

“We’ve also found in other studies that couples who drink together tend to have better relationship quality, and it might be because it increases intimacy,” Birditt said.

That impact might merit further study. Birditt would like to explore further questions related to couples’ alcohol consumption and how it affects their relationship.

“We don’t know why both partners drinking is associated with better survival. I think using the other techniques that we use in our studies in terms of the daily experiences and ecological momentary assessment questionnaires could really get at that to understand, for example, focusing on concordant drinking couples,” she said.

“What are their daily lives like? Are they drinking together? What are they doing when they are drinking? 

“There is also little information about the daily interpersonal processes that account for these links. Future research should assess the implications of couple drinking patterns for daily marital quality, and daily physical health outcomes.”

The Health and Retirement study is a nationally representative study of adults aged 50 and older in the United States. It includes couples who are interviewed every two years. Participants included 4,656 married/cohabiting different-sex couples (9,312 individuals) who completed at least three waves of the HRS from 1996 to 2016. 

About this longevity research news

Author: Morgan Sherburne
Source: University of Michigan
Contact: Morgan Sherburne – University of Michigan
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Closed access.
Alcohol Use and Mortality Among Older Couples in the United States: Evidence of Individual and Partner Effects” by Kira Birditt, et al. The Gerontologist


Alcohol Use and Mortality Among Older Couples in the United States: Evidence of Individual and Partner Effects

Background and Objectives

Spouses with concordant (i.e., similar) drinking behaviors often report better quality marriages and are married longer compared with those who report discordant drinking behaviors. Less is known regarding whether concordant or discordant patterns have implications for health, as couples grow older. The present study examined whether drinking patterns among older couples are associated with mortality over time.

Research Design and Methods

The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is a nationally representative sample of individuals and their partners (married/cohabiting) over age 50 in the United States, in which participants completed surveys every 2 years. Participants included 4,656 married/cohabiting different-sex couples (9,312 individuals) who completed at least 3 waves of the HRS from 1996 to 2016. Participants reported whether they drank alcohol at all in the last 3 months, and if so, the average amount they drank per week. Mortality data were from 2016.


Analyses revealed concordant drinking spouses (both indicated they drank in the last 3 months) survived longer than discordant drinking spouses (1 partner drinks and the other does not) and concordant nondrinking spouses. Analysis of average drinks per week showed a quadratic association with mortality such that light drinking predicted better survival rates among individuals and their partners compared with abstaining and heavy drinking. Further, similar levels of drinking in terms of the amount of drinking were associated with greater survival, particularly among wives.

Discussion and Implications

This study moves the field forward by showing that survival varies as a function of one’s own and one’s partner’s drinking.

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.