Divorcees are 47 percent more likely to die prematurely, new research suggests.
Separating from a spouse increases people’s risk of passing away early due to them being more likely to take up smoking and no longer exercising, a study found.
They are thought to adopt these habits as a result of them having less life satisfaction, the research adds.
Previous research suggests people are more likely to die young after getting divorced due to them no longer having a spouse who nags them to lead healthy lifestyles.
Lead author Kyle Bourassa, from the University of Arizona, said: ‘If you imagine a husband or wife who doesn’t smoke and their partner does, one might try to influence the other’s behaviour.
‘In many ways, when relationships end, we lose that important social control of our health behaviours.’
Up to 50 percent of married couples in the US, and 42 percent in the UK, divorce.
Divorcees are 47 percent more likely to die prematurely, new research suggests (stock)
MARRIAGE CAN PREVENT DEATH FROM HEART DISEASE
Marriage prevents death from heart disease, research has revealed.
A study published in August 2017 found that married people are 14 percent more likely to survive a heart attack than those who are single.
This is thought to be due to spouses nagging each other to live a healthy lifestyle, the research adds.
Husbands and wives can also be relied upon to remind the other to take their medication and generally help them to cope with their condition, researchers said.
Lead author Dr Paul Carter, from Aston University in Birmingham, said: ‘Marriage, and having a spouse at home, is likely to offer emotional and physical support on a number of levels.’
‘Life satisfaction seems to link divorce to physical activity levels’
The researchers believe future studies should assess how diet and alcohol consumption changes when people divorce or separate.
They also think the health of widowed and remarried people should be investigated.
Mr Bourassa said: ‘This is a subgroup of people that are at greater risk for these poorer health behaviours, so the goal might be to target them for interventions to hopefully improve their long-term health.
‘We have interventions for people who smoke and we have interventions for people who don’t get enough exercise, so if we know someone who is divorced, maybe we should ask, “Are you smoking? Are you getting enough physical activity?”
‘Finding that life satisfaction seems to link divorce to physical activity levels also suggests that interventions to improve people’s life satisfaction and psychological wellbeing could translate downstream to physical health improvements.’
The findings were published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
How the research was carried out
The researchers analysed 5,786 people over 50 living in the UK.
Of which, 926 were divorced or separated and had not remarried. The remainder were married.
Over 10 years, the participants’ life satisfaction, exercise levels, smoking statuses and lung functions were assessed.
The researchers also tracked the number of participants who died during the study.
Separated people often take up smoking due to them having poor life satisfaction (stock)
Keeping a diary helps people cope after a divorce
This comes after research released last May suggested writing a diary after going through a divorce could improve people’s heart health and their abilities to adapt to new situations.
Researchers found the benefits of keeping a journal are seen among those who express their feelings by writing the story of their relationships.
Study author Kyle Bourassa, from the University of Arizona, said: ‘To be able to create a story in a structured way – not just re-experience your emotions but make meaning out of them – allows you to process those feelings in a more physiologically adaptive way.
‘The explicit instructions to create a narrative may provide a scaffolding for people who are going through this tough time.
‘This structure can help people gain an understanding of their experience that allows them to move forward, rather than simply spinning and re-experiencing the same negative emotions over and over.’