United States: The Health Effects Of Divorce Can Be Both Detrimental And Beneficial

Divorces affect every aspect of an individual's life - their financial situation, their children, their home, their friendships, everything. Divorces are notoriously stressful events and, while a stressful marriage can absolutely consume a person to their detriment, many people would also agree that their lives are negatively impacted in some way by the process. What most people may not recognize, however, is how significant a role divorce plays in their overall mental and physical health. While short term effects are generally associated with divorce, recent studies have focused on the long-term impacts to health. The findings are troubling. In a 2009 study conducted by sociologists Linda Waite and Mary Elizabeth Hughes of the University of Chicago, research showed that divorced or widowed individuals are 20 percent more likely than married people to have chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. In addition, they also showed 23 percent more mobility limitations, such as trouble climbing stairs or walking. The study, which examined the marital history and health indicators for 8,652 people between the ages of 51 and 61, focused on four categories: chronic health conditions, mobility, depressive symptoms and self-assessment. The results of the study support the contention that those who experience a divorce or the death of a spouse have long-term negative consequences related to their health.

University of Texas at Austin researcher Mark Hayward tells WebMD "that long-term stress before, during, and after a divorce may accelerate the biologic processes that lead to cardiovascular disease and possibly other chronic diseases." In his study on the impact of divorce on heart disease, he showed that divorced, middle-aged women were more likely to develop heart disease than other non-divorced, married women. Although Hayward's study focused on women, the health consequences of divorce are not specific to gender. In a 2010 article on marriage and men's health, the Harvard Medical School cited a MFRIT study of 10,904 American married men which revealed that men who divorced were 37 percent more likely to die during the nine-year study than men who remained married. This may be due to the biological effects stress is having on men and women alike. The Harvard Medical School notes that stress triggers inflammation, which is a newly recognized cardiac risk factor. Thus, it may come as no surprise that divorced men have higher levels of inflammatory markers than married men.

Divorce also alters lifestyle habits and behaviors that may adversely affect health. Researchers from Ohio State University found that, two years after a divorce, separated partners tended to be heavier as compared to couples who remained married, although men showed larger weight gains than women. Harvard Medical School similarly points out that divorced men don't eat as well as married men. Furthermore, divorced men are less likely to exercise and are more likely to smoke, drink excessively, and engage in other risky behaviors. It is clear that divorce may cause some people to engage in destructive conduct that inevitably affects their physical and mental well being.
There is no doubt that electing to end your marriage is a decision that should be weighed heavily. The unsettling studies on the health effects of divorce can only lead one to question why divorce has such a powerful impact on a person's health. When discussing her research on the subject, sociologist Linda Waite noted that "previous research suggests that marriage has protective health benefits by providing financial, social, and emotional stability." Specifically, women often have more financial security, thus allowing them access to health care and reduced stress, while married men have better health habits in comparison to single males. It also goes without saying that the stress of determining the division of marital assets and child custody directly contributes to this impact.

On the other hand, while a healthy marriage has been shown to provide protective health benefits, several studies also "show that the marriage advantage doesn't extend to those in troubled relationships, which can leave a person far less healthy than if he or she had never married at all." One study, for instance, showed that a stressful marriage can be as bad for the heart as a regular smoking habit. Further, just as divorce has been found to negatively impact women's health specifically, researchers have also found that "bad relationships [are] bad for health" as women in troubled relationships (who likely face anger, stress and hostility) are more likely than other women to be depressed, have metabolic syndrome, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, abdominal obesity, and elevated blood sugar - "all basically steps on the road to heart attack or diabetes."

Accordingly, it is important to remember that, while divorce has been shown to have negative impacts on health, this is not true for everyone as an unhealthy relationship can also lead to certain health problems, including physical ailments and mental depression. As researcher Mark Hayward noted, "For people in highly stressful marriages, divorce may be beneficial for their health."

Ultimately, those seeking to prevent their current circumstances, whether a troubled marriage or divorce, from impacting their physical and mental health should seek measures to reduce stress and remember that a divorce should serve as a gateway to a healthier and happier life. When going through a divorce it is vital to remember the basics - eat well, exercise and, quite simply, remember to do the things that make you happy. Further, surrounding oneself with a supportive environment and attending counseling, if needed, will lessen health risks by helping one to cope with the stress.

Rebecca Palmer leads the Family & Marital Law practice. She has a broad background in providing alternative dispute resolution, general litigation, and collaborative law issues for domestic disputes for seventeen years. Rebecca's matters range from pre-marital agreements, divorce, and adoptions to difficult dissolutions, complex financial issues and custody cases. A Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, she is experienced in all methods of case resolution, including mediation, arbitration, facilitation and negotiations to serve individuals as well as businesses. Rebecca represents clients locally, nationally and internationally.

Crystal Espinosa Buit is an associate in the Family and Marital Law practice, devoted to family law matters including dissolution of marriage, child support, child custody, alimony and family law litigation involving complex financial and parenting issues. Crystal also works in the firm's burgeoning eDiscovery practice.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions