July 29, 2009
Divorced Suffer More Health Problems

Researchers from the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health find divorced people are less healthy than married people.

Among the findings:

  • 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 never married have 12 percent more mobility limitations and 13 percent more depressive symptoms, but report no difference in the number of chronic health conditions from married people.
  • 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.

The impacts of marriage, divorce and remarriage on health are based on the ways in which the various illnesses develop and heal, Waite said.

"Some health situations, like depression, seem to respond both quickly and strongly to changes in current conditions," she said. "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."

Maybe unhealthy people are more likely to divorce. So the direction of causation is not clear.

If unhappy marriages really do worsen health then does the damage to health mostly come before the divorce? Do unhappily married people suffer as much disease as those who get divorced?

I'd like to see a longitudinal study on married people where their cortisol and other stress-related hormones are tracked. Do people with high stress get divorced more often? My guess is yes. Do the ones with low stress hormones who get divorced suffer as much of an increase in health problems from divorce as divorcees overall appear to?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 July 29 08:19 PM  Aging Studies

Mercy Vetsel said at July 30, 2009 3:19 PM:

No mention of whether they control for SES, IQ or educational level all of which are negatively correlated with both divorce and illness.

Randall Parker said at July 31, 2009 6:48 PM:


Excellent point. Smart people live longer and get divorced less.

unknown said at August 1, 2009 10:10 AM:

Rich people live longer and divorce less.

Rich people score higher with IQ

A reason for divorce is that the partner is (objectively) mentally insane

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