Divorce, Age and Your Health

We all know divorce can be stressful, but it may also be bad for your health — especially if you are young when your marriage breaks up. According to a new study, divorce at a younger age can be more damaging to your health than if you divorce later in life.

Sociologists at Michigan State University analyzed the self-reported health of more than a thousand participants in a long-term national survey. They measured the difference in health status between those who stayed married during the 15-year study and those who got divorced, at certain ages and among different generations.

The authors of the study found the gap was wider when people were younger. For example, people born in the 1950s who got divorced between the ages of 35 and 41 seemd to have more health problems compared to their married peers than those who divorced between the ages of 44 and 50. They also found that baby boomers seemed to have a stronger negative health impact than the older generation. They had expected the opposite due to the fact that divorce is more prevalent for the younger generation. They sociologists say the reason for this may be because people in the older generation felt more pressure to get married and stay married, so it could be that those who got divorced were among the most unhappily married and therefore felt quite relieved after getting divorced.

The researchers found that those who get divorced “experience a more rapid health decline” than those who stay married, but those who remained divorced during the study showed no difference in health than those who stayed married. The authors of the study say this shows that it’s the transition from being married to being divorced that affects your health, not the actual status of being married or divorced.