From The Washington Post:
Those who sing the praises of married life, take note. Most of the studies claiming that marriage makes people happier or healthier or less crazy or whatever — are garbage.
This is not to blame anyone. Of course we wonder about the curses and blessings of this institution that so many Americans cycle in and out of. The problem is that our questions are near-impossible to answer conclusively.
The ideal marriage experiment would involve some kind of love potion or aphrodisiacal arrow you could randomly chuck at people. Lacking that superpower, the best that researchers can do is to observe how people’s lives change before and after marriage, or to make comparisons between married couples and similar people who are single.
Both these approaches are flawed. The problem with the first idea is that it mixes up the effects of marriage and the effects of getting older. The problem with the second idea is that married and unmarried people are just too different to compare without reams and reams of psychological, biological, environmental, and genetic data.
But wait. What if you studied twins?
There’s actually a delightful body of research using twins to answer really tricky questions about the human condition. One of these papers, which will soon be published in the Journal of Family Psychology, provides some of the best evidence we have so far on a real question pondered in real bars all across America: Are we all just drinking because we’re lonely and single?
The researchers looked at nearly 2,500 pairs of male and female twins from the state of Washington, who answered questions how often and how much they usually drink.
The most surprising finding? In some cases, marriage causes people to drink more.
Studies usually show a correlation between being married and drinking less, but it’s hard to say what that really means. We …