When going through issues in your marriage, you may lean on your favorite vices, in an effort to escape the stresses of your current situation. As the tension builds and the conflict continues to escalate, the amount of use of your vice of choice may increase.
For many Americans, this vice is cigarette smoking.
Many who smoke feel the social stigma of doing so. There are numerous studies detailing the health risks that smoking causes, but for a smoker, they understand that they are putting their body at risk. What they may not understand is how that addictive behavior also may put their marriage at risk, as well.
University of Minnesota study
A study from the University of Minnesota examined the relationship between cigarette smoking and divorce. They wanted to look at how being a smoker affected the long-term viability of the relationship.
The study found that adults who currently smoke cigarettes are 53 percent more likely to have experienced divorce than those who do not smoke. The researchers responsible for the study could not determine the causal direction between divorce and smoking, but their additional research led them to speculate that psychological and family of origin factors associated with initiating and maintain smoking may predispose individuals to marital instability.
The study from the University of Minnesota was inspired by previous studies that looked into the relationship between smoking cigarettes and mental health problems like anxiety and depression. The reason the research may have progressed to divorce is the connection that mental health issues have with marital stability, according to The Spruce, a lifestyle brand.
University of Michigan study
There also were previous studies looking at this issue. One examined 33,000 young adults and found that smoking rates were far above average among men and women who later divorced. This study was done by the Institute for Social Research in 1997 at the University of Michigan.
The researchers state that while smoking will not directly cause a divorce, the researchers stated that those who did smoke have life experiences and characteristics that make them more divorce-prone than nonsmokers.
For many couples, the conflict may stem from the fact that one spouse is not a smoker or used to be one, and the other spouse still smokes. The Centre for Economic Policy Research, the Research School of Economics, and Australian National University all collaborated on a study to determine factors that led to marital instability among similar and dissimilar partners.
They found that couples who either, both smoke or both do not smoke, should be at less risk of separation than couples, in which one partner smokes and the other does not. This means that smoking by one or both spouses is associated with a higher probability of marital instability and breakdown.
In terms of separation, they found that smoking couples are not significantly different from nonsmoking couples, in terms of separation risk. However, couple where one spouse smokes but the other does not, are at an increased risk of marital separation.
Even after the divorce is finalized, many people who were not previously smokers, or even light smokers, may begin to smoke as a way of self-medicating one’s self. According to The Huffington Post, anything can become a crutch during the stressful experience of a divorce.
This is why there are nearly twice as many smokers among the divorced and separated, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. According to their research, 30.6 percent of divorced or separated adults were more likely than the 22.3 percent of never married adults and the 16.2 percent of married adults to be active smokers.
Identification, not condemnation
None of this is to say that smokers are inherently bound for marital woes, nor is it to point out what divorced or separated individuals did wrong. Given the fact that 15.1 percent of adults ages 18 and older smoked, as of 2015, it still is a common practice, and while there are health risks that smokers face, this is not in condemnation of the practice.
In identifying the risks that smokers face in marriage, they are more equipped to face these challenges in future relationships.