Divorce and Widowhood Linked To Poorer Health

Research has shown that men typically benefit healthwise from marriage and that women typically benefit financially. In fact, men who remain married live longer than unmarried men and have a better chance of surviving surgery. The latest research in this area comes from the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University. It shows the divorce and widowhood have a negative and enduring impact on a person’s health. Furthermore, the findings indicate that getting remarried, while providing some health benefit or "rebound", does not restore a person back to their previous level of health.

Dr. Linda Waite and Dr. Mary Elizabeth Hughes, both sociologists, studied 8652 people aged 51 to 61. Their article entitled “marital biography and health midlife” is to appear in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

The researchers found that there was a 20 percent increase in chronic health problems in those who were divorced or widowed. In addition, they had 23 percent more conditions that negatively impact their mobility.

Although the reasons for these associations were not directly studied, the researchers believe that a number of factors related to the intense stress surrounding divorce may account for the persistent and significantly poorer health outcomes. For instance, divorce can lead to increased stress related to financial issues and shared childcare arrangements. Increased blood pressure, and poorer sleep and diet can also contribute to poorer health.

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These research results may lead people to believe that divorce should be avoided as it can compromise a person's health. However, it is important to note that there are many other variables that may account for the association between divorce and health. The researchers acknowledge that a third factor may account for this phenomenon and are calling for continued research into this area. In addition, there may be more salient reasons for leaving (i.e., abuse) which outweigh the negative health consequences that may or may not follow.

What has your experience with divorce been? Did you sense that your health was compromised? Did you feel healthier? Tell us your story.

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