Dating relationships may deter youth substance use

By Tom Nordlie • Published: September 28th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

There’s a reason why marriage is called “settling down.”

Study after study has shown that, on average, married people take fewer risks and live healthier lives than those who remain single.

So here’s an interesting question – is dating associated with any health benefit?

One group of researchers says it may discourage some recreational substance use.

Their findings were published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

In the study, scientists recruited about nine-hundred men and women in their late teens.

The study began shortly after high school ended for the participants.

By the way, previous research shows that many adolescents increase their substance use in the post-high school years.

So this study focused on a very relevant population.

Each participant was categorized as single, dating, cohabiting or married.

They all agreed to discuss their use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana with the scientists.

Follow-up went on for two years.

Every six months, the participants informed researchers about whether they’d used any of the three substances recently.

Later, the researchers cross-referenced the data on substance use and relationship status.

The results showed that people who were dating were less likely to drink heavily than their single counterparts.

Marijuana use was lower among people in dating relationships, too.

But tobacco use wasn’t affected much by relationships.

The researchers speculated that perhaps the rate of tobacco use was the same for each group because smoking isn’t as strongly connected with social behavior.

So here’s a cautionary note for anyone who’s trying to stop smoking:

Apparently, love doesn’t conquer all.

So make a date with your doctor if you’d like some advice on quitting.