Drinking Alcohol and Love Can Be a Good Mix


Drinking alcohol is a common activity among young adults involved in a love relationship, but under what circumstances does drinking have a positive or negative impact on that relationship? A new study by researchers at the University at Buffalo and University of Missouri has identified some specific conditions under which these effects are more likely to occur.

Young couples who drink together may stay together

According to Ash Levitt, PhD, the lead author of the report and a postdoctoral fellow at University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions, people should not count on the “blanket statements about drinking and romantic relationships that people have come to expect.”

Levitt and M. Lynne Cooper, PhD, of the University of Missouri, evaluated 69 heterosexual couples who were 20 to 21 years of age. Most of the participants were white and more than 90 percent were college students. Most were in a serious relationship and seven of the couples were married.

Levitt and Cooper utilized computerized and online daily diary collection methods to gather the participants’ activities and thoughts about drinking and their love relationships. Overall they found that couples who drank together rather than apart said they felt more intimacy and less relationship problems the next day compared with couples who drank apart or who did not drink at all.


The amount of alcohol consumed appeared to have an effect on the relationships, with one to three drinks being beneficial while four or more drinks were associated with a decline in intimacy and a rise in relationship problems.

The impact of alcohol on the body varies depending on the person’s sex, age, and body weight, and on how much alcohol he or she consumes. Generally, however, moderate alcohol consumption can improve mood, sociability, and self-confidence while also reducing attention span, causing sedation, and impairing memory, reaction time, and balance. Excessive alcohol consumption can result in severely impaired speech, ataxia (jerky, uncontrolled movements), vomiting, confusion, and unconsciousness.

If there is tension or a problem with the relationship, women are more likely to respond by drinking than are men. Researchers found that women consumed significantly more on days after experiencing a negative event with their partners than men did after similar events. Women also appear to drink with their partner in response to problems with their relationship, such as feeling disconnected or as if their partner has behaved badly toward them.

Results of this study suggest that among young adults, drinking alcohol and love can be a good mix, but only when drinking is done in moderation.

University at Buffalo