American Sociological Association

Marital Histories and Heavy Alcohol Use among Older Adults

We develop a gendered marital biography approach—which emphasizes the accumulating gendered experiences of singlehood, marriage, marital dissolution, and remarriage—to examine the relationship between marital statuses and transitions and heavy alcohol use. We test this approach using individual-level (n = 10,457) and couple-level (n = 2,170) longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study, and individual-level (n = 46) and couple-level (n = 42) in-depth interview data. Quantitative results show that marriage, including remarriage, reduces men’s but increases women’s drinking relative to being never married and previously married, whereas divorce increases men’s but decrease women’s drinking, with some variation by age. Our qualitative findings reveal that social control and convergence processes underlie quantitative results. We call attention to how men’s and women’s heavy drinking trajectories stop, start, and change direction as individuals move through their distinctive marital biography.


Reczek, C., Pudrovska, T., Carr, D., Thomeer, M. B., Umberson, D.





Starting Page


Ending Page


Get Involved


ASA needs you to serve the discipline

Join a Section

Explore ASA's community of specialists in the discipline

Join ASA

Join or renew your membership