Cohabiting Adults More Likely to Drink Heavily

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Friday, October 26, 2001

Cohabiting Adults More Likely to Drink Heavily
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based on data from the 1997-98 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) reveals a possible link between cohabitation and heavy alcohol use. According to the report, “Alcohol Use Among Adults: United States, 1997-98,” adults who described themselves as “living with partner” were more likely to be categorized as “current” drinkers (alcohol consumed in the previous year) and as “heavier” drinkers (at least 12 drinks in their lifetime, and at least 12 drinks in the past year). Among both sexes, and in almost every category of alcohol consumption, cohabiting adults were more likely to have consumed at least some alcohol than adults who were “never married,” “married,” “divorced or separated,” or “widowed.” Among cohabiting adults, 52 percent of male current drinkers and 33 percent of female current drinkers had had at least 5 drinks in a day at least once within the past year. Among those who had consumed that much alcohol on at least 12 days within the past year, cohabiting adults also outpaced every other category.

Although it is difficult to say whether cohabitation itself drives people to drink or heavy drinkers are more likely to cohabit than to marry (perhaps a little of both?), in any case it would appear that living together is not associated with a particularly healthy lifestyle. Interestingly, cohabiting adults were more than twice as likely (9.4 percent) to be heavier drinkers than married adults were (3.8 percent). Heavier drinkers are defined as those who had consumed at least 12 drinks in the past year and 7 or more drinks per week (women) or 14 or more drinks per week (men). Married adults were the least likely of all categories to be heavier drinkers.

Women More Vulnerable to Euthanasia?
Advocates of euthanasia may find themselves in a dilemma trying to account for the results of a new study, which found that some two thirds of those whose lives are ended by assisted suicide are women. The results of the study, authored by Silvia Sara Canetto, an associate professor of psychology at Colorado State University, were published recently in the journal, Omega: Journal of Death and Dying. In an article in the Oct. 17 issue of Health Scout News, Canetto expressed concern that so-called “mercy killing” and assisted suicide may not be quite as voluntary as they are portrayed to be by euthanasia advocates. Instead, said Canetto, “[W]hen you actually look at what happens, you have a person who is very ill, dependent on others for care, vulnerable and exhausted. If you perceive yourself as a burden, or others perceive you as being a burden, you could be seen as a good candidate for death.” She believes that this makes women, particularly elderly women, much more vulnerable to being euthanized against their wishes.

Canetto reviewed records of 112 “mercy killings” kept by the pro-euthanasia Hemlock Society in preparing her report. She found that most cases involved both sexes and typically involved a child killing a parent or a spouse killing a spouse. In 70 percent of the cases, however, the man did the killing. While most cases (92 percent) involved a person who was ill, only 35 percent of the total were terminal. In some 85 percent of cases it was not clear that the person actually wished to die. Physical suffering is not the primary reason people have suicidal thoughts, Canetto pointed out. A person who says he wants to die may actually be depressed or lonely or concerned about being a burden. He may actually need reassurance. The article speculated that, since women are more likely to be caregivers in a family, they might be more sensitive to the burdens faced by their family members.

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