Alcohol consumption and divorce rates in the United States

J Stud Alcohol. 1999 Sep;60(5):647-52. doi: 10.15288/jsa.1999.60.647.


Objective: The objective of the present study is to analyze time series data on alcohol consumption and divorce rates and assess the directionality of this relationship using alternative aggregate measures of alcohol consumption rates.

Method: Granger's causality test and Box-Jenkins time series analysis are used to examine aggregate data on divorce rates and two indicators of alcohol consumption: a per capita consumption measure based on sales and shipments, and an expenditure-based measure for U.S. data from 1934 to 1987.

Results: A consumption increase of 1 liter of alcohol per capita brings about an increase in the divorce rate of about 20%. This finding contrasts with results, using expenditures as the aggregate alcohol measure, that show that an increase of 1/1,000 in the divorce rate leads to a 10% increase in alcohol expenditures. (These latter findings confirm earlier published results.)

Conclusions: The results from the present study provide support both for the effects of heavy drinking on divorce rates and the effects of divorce rates on expenditures for alcoholic beverages. While both aggregate measures of alcohol consumption are highly correlated, they may tap different aspects of consumption. The relationship between marital instability and alcohol consumption is far from a simple one, and more complete conceptual models need to be developed. Aggregate-level findings indicate that it is reasonable to assume that a bidirectional influence exists between divorce rates and alcohol consumption.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / economics
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Divorce / economics
  • Divorce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology