29 July 2009
Health goes downhill long after divorce
Divorce and widowhood have a lingering, detrimental impact on health, even after a woman remarries, say researchers at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University. "Among the currently married, those who have ever been divorced show worse health on all dimensions. Both the divorced and widowed who do not remarry show worse health on all dimensions," said University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite.
Waite conducted the study with Mary Elizabeth Hughes, Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. Their research will be published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Although a number of studies have looked at the connection between health and marriage, theirs is the first to examine both marital transitions and marital status on a wide range of health dimensions. "Each person's experience of marital gain and loss affect this stock of health," Waite said. "For example, the transition to marriage tends to bring an immediate health benefit, in that it improves health behaviors for men and financial well-being for women."
Key findings include:
- Divorced or widowed people have 20 percent more chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer than married people. They also have 23 percent more mobility limitations, such as trouble climbing stairs or walking a block.
- People who remarried have 12 percent more chronic conditions and 19 percent more mobility limitations, but no more depressive symptoms, than those who are continuously married.
"Some health situations, like depression, seem to respond both quickly and strongly to changes in current conditions," Waite noted. "In contrast, conditions such as diabetes and heart disease develop slowly over a substantial period and show the impact of past experiences, which is why health is undermined by divorce or widowhood, even when a person remarries."
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Source: University of Chicago