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Beware! Divorce May Shorten Your Lifespan

Divorced people usually deal with low life satisfaction. This can result in low physical activity and excessive smoking, two factors which greatly contribute to early death, a new study reveals.

Beware! Divorce May Shorten Your Lifespan

Divorced people usually deal with low life satisfaction

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Divorced people usually deal with low life satisfaction
  2. Divorced people are more likely to smoke as compared to married people
  3. Divorce doesn't always lead to negative health outcomes

Divorced people usually deal with low life satisfaction. This can result in low physical activity and excessive smoking, two factors which greatly contribute to early death, a new study reveals. Divorced people were more likely to smoke as compared to the married ones and this harmed their lung function. Poor lung function, too, contributes to early death.

"We were trying to fill in the gap of evidence linking marital status and early mortality," said lead author Kyle Bourassa from University of Arizona in the US.

These results were based on the data obtained from a long-term health study of people over 50 years of age living in Great Britain. It was named English Longitudinal Study of Aging. It includes seven waves of data which was collected from participants every two years starting in 2002.


The study, published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, included data from 5,786 participants out of which 926 people were divorced, separated or had not remarried. The rest of the sample group comprised of married participants.

Participants themselves reported what their level of life satisfaction, smoking and exercise frequency was. They lung function and level of inflammation was also checked.

After tracking the deaths among the participants during the study, the researchers found that divorced or separated population had a 46 per cent greater risk of dying than their still-married counterparts.

The results also showed that divorced or separated women participants had further lower life satisfaction than married participants.

"While the study didn't explicitly examine why divorce seems to be associated with greater likelihood of smoking and lower levels of exercise, one possible explanation, supported by existing research, is that divorced individuals no longer have spouses holding them accountable for their health behaviours," Bourassa said.

"If you imagine a husband or wife who doesn't smoke and their partner does, one might try to influence the other's behavior. In many ways, when relationships end, we lose that important social control of our health behaviors," Bourassa explained.

It is important to note that divorce doesn't always lead to negative health outcomes. Quality of life, for example, can significantly improve for individuals who have ended unhealthy relationships.

Still, since divorce overall continues to be linked to poorer health, knowing that smoking and exercise may be part of the explanation could help inform interventions for those who've gone through a separation, Bourassa said. 

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