A new study suggests jealousy in romantic relationships may trigger drinking problems.

The study, conducted on 277 American university students, found that those who were more emotionally dependent on their relationships were more likely to turn to alcohol if they became jealous. It did not prove, however, that jealousy caused drinking.

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Authors of the study say these findings could help identify people at risk for alcoholism.

"We all experience feelings of jealousy to some degree; many people are in relationships that are less than ideal, and use alcohol for different reasons," said Angelo DiBello, study author and part of the psychology department at the University of Houston. "Romantic jealousy is a shared human experience, but very little work has looked at how it is related to alcohol use, misuse, and associated problems. This research helps to highlight the associations between these factors and show how our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are related in potentially harmful ways."

Intemperate drinking is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Among working-age adults, it accounts for 10% of deaths - about 88,000 deaths a year.