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Divorce Has Unhealthy Impact on Younger Adults

Divorce affects health

Breaking up is hard to do, and couples who go through a divorce often find that the experience takes a toll on their health. A new study finds divorce has an unhealthy impact on younger adults, more so than it does on their older counterparts.

Some divorce rates are falling

“Till death do us part” is a phrase some couples are not bothering to put into their wedding vows. While that may be a break from tradition, it also may be viewed as a reality check, given that about half the marriages in the United States end in divorce. Many other couples are choosing to skip the vows altogether and live together without getting married, which naturally has an impact on divorce rates since there are fewer marriages.

In a report entitled “Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2009” from the US Census Bureau, it was reported that divorce rates for most age groups—but not all--have been declining since 1996.

For example, the percentage of women 25 to 29 who had been married and divorced was 19% in 1996, and that number had dropped to 14% in 2009, for a 30% decline. Among 30- to 34-year-old women, the decrease was about 20% between the two decades. Older women ages 60 to 69 saw an increase in divorce rates, climbing from 27% in 1996 to 37% in 2009.

With all its ups and down, divorce is thriving and, according to a new study by Michigan State University assistant professor of sociology Hui Liu, harmful to your health. She reports that getting divorced at a younger age is more harmful to your health than making the big split later in life.

Liu evaluated the self-reported health of 1,282 participants of a national study called Americans’ Changing Lives. She analyzed the differences in health status between individuals who stayed married during the 15-year study period and those who were married and then got divorced, and looked at the results according to age.

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She noted that among people born in the 1950s, those who got a divorce between ages 35 and 41 had more reported health problems when compared with their married counterparts than did those who got divorced in the 44 to 50 age group.

Overall, there was a greater negative health impact on individuals who got divorced at a younger age than those who split at an older age. This was not what Liu expected. “I would have expected divorce to carry less stress for the younger generation, since divorce is more prevalent for them,” she noted.

One explanation may be that older people have more coping skills and life experience to deal with the stresses associated with divorce. She also pointed out that pressure to stay married was stronger for older generations, and among those who did divorce, leaving an unhappy relationship was a relief.

When Liu looked at the health of the participants who remained divorced during the entire study and those who remained married, the health status in both groups showed no difference. Given that divorce appears to have an unhealthy impact on younger adults, she concluded that “we need more social and family support for the younger divorced groups.”


CNN News
Michigan State University

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons