A New Study Reveals the Effects of Divorce on Health

A divorce is never a good thing – seems like at some point a couple always gets in a tug of war over property, children and assets. Obviously, no couple goes into marriage thinking they will be the ones who won’t make it. The “economical” effects of divorce on the soon-to-be ex-husband and wife are one thing; the physical effects of divorce are another. Two recent US study’s: one at Bowling green University in Ohio and the other at Mark Hayword University in Texas are showing that for couples age 40 and over; a divorce affects the overall health of the female, while at the same time apparently having some positive effects on the male heart. The research is revealing the strange effects of stress on an individual’s life.

For females in the 40-and-over age group, a divorce can manifest itself with cardiovascular problems, while these risks seem to be absent from the male. In fact, studies show that remaining married to the same person can actually add years to a man’s life. A divorce or widowed male is no more susceptible to cardiovascular risks than if he was married all his life to the same woman. This is not necessarily news, as the physical benefits of staying married have been documented. The physical detriments of being divorced have not. Thus, these two inter-related studies.

According to a report published in the Journal of marriage and Family, from 1992 to 2000, a group of nearly 9500 men and women from 51 to 61 years of age were given follow-up interviews every two years. The results seem to bear out that the females in the test-group whether divorced, widowed or re-married were more susceptible to cardiovascular disease than their male counterparts. Studies reveals further that after 60 years of age, 33% of those women divorced, 30% of those widowed and 315 of those re-married were suffering from some serious cardiovascular problems. As compared to 22% of women who remained married to the same partner.

These same physical risks were not readily apparent for divorced males – only 19% of divorced or widowed males demonstrated any cardiopathic risks.


– Life expectancies for divorced men and women are significantly lower than for married people (who have the longest life expectancies).
– A recent study found those who were unhappy but stay married were more likely to be happy five years later than those who divorced.
– The health consequences of divorce are so severe that a Yale researcher concluded that “being divorced and a nonsmoker is [only] slightly less dangerous than smoking a pack a day and staying married.”
– After a diagnosis of cancer, married people are most likely to recover, while the divorced are least likely to recover, indicating that the emotional trauma of divorce has a long-term impact on the physical health of the body.
– Men and women both suffer a decline in mental health following divorce, but researchers have found that women are more greatly affected.
– Some of the mental health indicators affected by divorce include depression, hostility, self-acceptance, personal growth and positive relations with others.

Research shows that divorce immediately increases psychological distress and has long-term negative consequences for the physical health of divorced people. In addition, we divorce indirectly causes long-term increases in distress through stressful midlife events.

Another study used data from 416 rural Iowa women who were interviewed repeatedly in the early 1990s when they were mothers of adolescent children; the women were interviewed again in 2001. The data support the hypotheses. In the years immediately after their divorce (1991-1994), divorced women reported significantly higher levels of psychological distress than married women but no differences in physical illness. A decade later (in 2001), the divorced women reported significantly higher levels of illness, even after controlling for age, remarriage, education, income, and prior health. Compared to their married counterparts, divorced women reported higher levels of stressful life events between 1994 and 2000, which led to higher levels of depressive symptoms in 2001.

Researchers say more studies are warranted. Barring an affair with the secretary or best friend, maybe at the end of the day, stressing over hair in the sink and unmade beds doesn’t warrant a split.

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