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This research summary describes a possible link between divorce and
(premature) death. See my comments after the summary. The links and hilights below
are mine. -
This brief YouTube vide summarizes five common reasons dor divorce:
- Peter Gerlach, MSW
Nearly 2 million people in the United States and many more in the world are
impacted by divorce each year. There have been a variety of studies that
have hinted that divorce may be linked to the increased chance of an early
death, but overall the evidence has been mixed.
David Sbarra, Rita Law, and Robert Portley from the University of Arizona
recently published a study to summarize the evidence on the link between
divorce and early death. They gathered data from 32 studies involving more
than 6.5 million people in 11 countries that included 755,000 divorces and
In general, the researchers found that
adults who were divorced were 23%
more likely to die younger than their married counterparts. Men had almost
twice as high a risk of early death compared to women. People younger than
65 years of age were more at risk following divorce than older people. This
pattern was consistent regardless of what country people lived in.
The next question asked by the researchers was whether divorce "caused"
death. Now this may seem obvious, but even with prospective data, it is not
always the case that correlation mean causation. One important consideration
is a selection effect that accounts for both divorce and death. The authors
selection holds that some people possess characteristics that increase risk
for both separation/divorce and poor health outcomes.
Hostility, depression and substance abuse are just a few examples of the
many processes that can increase the likelihood of future divorce...and are
unique predictors of early death..." In other words, some common
characteristic is causing both divorce and death. These data do not allow us
to test the selection hypothesis and therefore, we cannot rule out this
The authors conclude their study with a thoughtful analysis of the
mechanisms through which divorce might lead to early death. Their first idea
is that because divorce often reduces the financial status of both husbands
and wives, this may impact health. In general, we know that individuals with
lower economic means are more at-risk of health problems. Another
consequence of divorce is that people's social ties are disrupted. Divorced
men and women are less likely to maintain ties to neighbors, churches, clubs
and so forth. Again we know that strong social relationships benefit health
Another possible way in which divorce influences well-being is through
health habits. There is some strong evidence that following divorce, women
in particular are more likely to resume smoking. There is some evidence to
suggest that eating habits and sleeping patterns are also disrupted.
Finally, there is the possibility that the stress of divorce disrupts
biological functions which puts people more at risk. In a previous study,
Sbarra demonstrated that divorced people who reported more difficulty
handling their emotions following divorce had higher blood pressure. This
finding suggests that stress-related difficulties brought on by divorce may
contribute to poorer health.
Despite the general finding that divorce increases the risk of early death,
the authors urge caution in the interpretation of these findings. They note
that many people remarry and this was not taken into account in this study.
They also suggest that until more work is done that controls for selection
factors and includes the various mechanisms, it would be unwise to base too
much on the findings of this one study. Although
the findings from this
study remain open to further exploration, the analysis by these authors is a
welcome reminder of the complexities of understanding the effects of
+ + +
This summary illustrates typical researchers' unawareness of
widespread divorce in our U.S. culture. My professional research since 1979
suggests that two major unrecognized
causes are mates'
unawareness. There is increasing evidence that these two unseen stressors promote
(a) personal and relationship stress and divorce, and (b) significant
physical illness and
premature death. The study authors are right to sense that
"selection factors" link divorce and early death.
Opinion: by itself, the process of divorce doesn't
promote premature death. The several factors that cause divorcedo promote it. For more perspective, see this
in this Web site provides a detailed explanation of the toxic effects
of inherited psychological wounds, and proposes how to reduce them.
Lesson 4 proposes
a way to prevent divorce, starting
Lessons 1 thru 6
present vital knowledge that will correct inherited unawareness and
ignorance. - Peter K. Gerlach, MSW