Divorce Puts a Lifelong Strain on Your Health

Jul 28, 2009
People, who are divorced or widowed, face a number of health problems that do not resolve even if they marry again, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University analyzed health conditions of 8,652 people aged 51 to 61 to find the link between marital status and marital transitions on personal health. Linda Waite, the author of the study together with her colleague Mary Elizabeth Hughes, Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health said that divorced and widowed people, even if they had currently remarried had worse health conditions on all dimensions.

The results of the study show that divorce and loss of a spouse increases the risk of having such chronic health conditions heart disease, diabetes and cancer by 20 percent. Also people, who were divorced and widowed, were 23 percent more likely to have health problems that impact their mobility, i.e. the ability to climb stairs or walk.

People, who married again after divorce or widowhood, were 12 percent more likely to have chronic health conditions and 19 percent more likely to have mobility problems if compared to married people.

Those, who were never married, were 12 percent more likely to experience mobility problems and 13 percent more likely to suffer from depression.
Scientists explain that each person has certain "stock" of health, determined by genetics and external factors when he or she becomes an adult. Such events as marriage and divorce can influence a person's health. Marriage is known to give numerous advantages and health benefits, while divorce may seriously undermine health condition due to increased stress.

Researchers said that such conditions as depression develop quickly after stressful events, while chronic health conditions, like cancer or diabetes tend to build up slowly over a long period and often become a result of negative experience in the past. This explains why divorce may have a detrimental effect on personal health even if a person marries again.

The study will be published in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior