How divorce affects your health – Even after remarrriage

August 29, 2009


There is no doubt that divorce is a traumatic event, indeed on the life stressors scale it is the second highest event after death of a family member. What is new, to me at any rate, is material just published that shows that even after remarriage the divorce continues to impact on your health according to a joint University of Chicago study and John Hopkins study.

Divorcees and widowers who do not remarry or have another permanent relationship tend to have worse health than their peers. There have been studies before on the connection between health and marriage, but this is the first to examine both marital transitions and marital status on health.

We know that as we become adults we bring with us a baseline stock of health, based on our genetic inheritance and other factors. Our experiences will affect this stock for good or ill; for instance getting married tends to bring an immediate benefit in that generally it improves mental health, presumably with better nutrition and fewer takeaways, and women’s health improves from being more financially secure, though they obviously never met my ex.

As a marriage goes on the benefits are enhanced but divorce or widowhood undermines health because incomes drop, and stress develops over issues such as shared child care. If you want the statistics to impress your partner with then here they are:

** divorced or widowed people have 20 percent more chronic health conditions like diabetes and cancer than married people and 23 percent more difficulty with mobility such as trouble climbing stairs or walking short distances

** people who never married have 12 percent more mobility limitations and 13 percent more depressive symptoms and the same number of chronic health conditions as married people

** those who have remarried have 12 percent more chronic conditions and 19 percent more mobility limitations, but no more depressive symptoms, than those who are continuously married.

How we become less healthy is also dependent on the particular illness; for instance conditions such as depression, seem to respond both quickly and strongly to changes in current conditions, but diabetes and heart disease develop slowly over a substantial period and show the impact of past experiences. That is one of the reasons why health is undermined by divorce or widowhood, even when a person remarries.

So it seems the best plan is to stay married, and if divorced or widowed to be open to developing a new relationship, if only for the sake of your health.


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