The Recession’s Big Impact on Marriage and … College Student Drinking Habits?

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Seeing as money is often cited as a prime reason couples break up, it’s no surprise that the economic downturn has had a big impact—sometimes positive, often negative—on many marriages. The tough economy may also be causing the nation’s college students to hit the bottle less too.

The Washington Post, citing a new University of Virginia survey, reports that 29% of couples say the recession put a financial stress on their marriages. And, as you might expect, less-educated couples fared worse than most:

Couples without a college degree were more likely to say they had experienced one or more economic hardships. More than one-third of those surveyed said they worried often or almost all the time about being able to pay the bills. About 12 percent reported either struggling to pay their mortgages or experiencing a home foreclosure.

At the same time, the economic downturn forced many couples to redouble efforts to save their marriages. Despite increased marital stress due to the economy, the divorce rate has actually declined since the financial collapse—one of many trends supposedly caused by the recession. Why? Perhaps it’s just too expensive to split up now. Or perhaps, when surrounded by stories of job loss and foreclosure, couples come to realize what’s truly important in life, and their new priorities include serious efforts to make marriages work.

In the UVA survey, about one-third of couples said the recession caused them to work harder to salvage their marriages, and 38% of couples who were on the brink of divorce said they’d postponed the split because of the recession.

Meanwhile, USA Today cites a survey indicating that young college students are far more likely to abstain from alcohol today:

Outside the Classroom, an organization that provides alcohol education training at colleges, finds that since 2006, the percentage of incoming freshmen who abstain from alcohol has jumped from 38% to 62%.

“It’s a demographic trend among students,” CEO Brandon Busteed says. His organization surveys about a third of freshmen entering four-year universities and colleges each year. Why the number of teetotaling 18-year-olds is up isn’t clear. Busteed says the economy is a big reason. Students “are taking (college) more seriously because they realize it’s their future,” he says.

Could the recession have actually made 18-year-olds think seriously about their future? If so, there’s at least one positive effect we can credit to the economic collapse.

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