Divorced women more prone to illness

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 19th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Post-divorce stress can affect women’s mental health and make them more prone to illness, researchers say.

An Iowa State University study compared the health of recently divorced rural women with those who stayed married. Immediately after divorce, women reported problems with mental health and not physical health. But over time …ten years in this study… their psychological stresses led to physical illness.

Researchers interviewed four-hundred-sixteen

women… twenty-five percent of them recently divorced… three times in the early 1990s and once in 2001. During the three years after their divorce, women reported seven percent more psychological stress than their married counterparts… but no differences in physical illness.

Ten years later the divorced women reported no increase in psychological stress but thirty-seven percent more physical illness… ranging from sore throats and common colds to cancer and heart conditions.

Researchers link the increase in illness to divorce-related stresses like parenting challenges, financial problems and work troubles. Plus, divorced women… especially in rural areas… have fewer support systems and job opportunities and often don’t get preventive care because they can’t afford it.

But there’s good news for women who had remarried or were living with a partner by the study’s end. Researchers say they cut their risk of health problems by improving their finances.

Understanding that divorce can affect women’s and psychological well-being is a valuable tool for family, friends and legal and medical professionals. Being aware of the potential long-term effects of divorce can make way for support, help and intervention.