Becoming married, depression, and alcohol problems among young adults

J Health Soc Behav. 1991 Sep;32(3):221-37.


This paper examines three questions regarding the relationship between marriage and mental health, specifically depression and alcohol problems. First, does marriage lead to improved mental health compared to never marrying? Second, do any mental health benefits of marriage primarily accrue to men? Third, what qualitative aspects of marriage are related to psychological disorder? We explore these questions in a longitudinal sample of young adults sampled at age 21 and again at age 24. We find no indication that marriage reduces depression. Married people do report fewer alcohol problems than the never-married but this could be due to the selection of less problematic drinkers into marriage. We also fail to find that men receive disproportionate mental health benefits from marriage. Finally, we find that marital conflict is associated with problem drinking for men and depression for women. The results indicate the importance of considering stage in the life cycle and gender-sensitive indicators of psychological disorder in studies of marriage and mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / etiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Data Collection
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Mental Health*
  • New Jersey / epidemiology
  • Sex Factors