Friends’ benefits can include a more sober lifestyle
Marriage usually helps stabilize behavior, with people less likely to use drugs and drink once wedded. The same appears to be true of young adults in romantic relationships, a new study has found.
Researchers examined surveys of 909 people who were followed beginning in first or second grade up through two years after high school. They found the typical person of age 19 or 20 who was not in a stable relationship was much more likely, by about 40%, to use marijuana and drink heavily compared with someone who was in a relationship. The researchers controlled for other factors that affect drinking and drug use, such as employment status. The people who were not in relationships were less likely than their dating peers to have used marijuana or alcohol in high school, however.
“For these individuals, the new freedoms of early adulthood and lack of social control from a partner posed the greatest risks in terms of escalation of substance use,” the authors wrote.
It could be that young people in relationships are getting support from their romantic partner that helps them avoid substances or that they are spending less time hanging out with substance-abusing friends or in bars.
“Even dating relationships activate mechanisms of support and control, although to a lesser extent than more serious relationship statuses of cohabitation or marriage,” the authors wrote. “These findings show how bonding, adopting the behavior patterns of a partner and the interaction between these two processes influence substance use in early adulthood.”
The study was published Wednesday in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.