Study of Rural Women Reveals Negative Impact of Divorce
> 11/2/2006 4:13:57 PM

We often associate strong marriages with positive health outcomes in men, but new research shows that a divorce can be just as damaging to the health of a woman. Researchers at Iowa State University thoroughly interviewed over 400 women from rural areas in the Midwest, 102 of whom had been recently divorced. They found that at the time of the first interviews, in the early 90s, the divorced women showed little to no difference in the their physical health from their non-divorced counterparts and only a slightly higher prevalence of mental health problems. When interviewed again in 2001 however, the divorced women reported drastically higher levels of physical ailments ranging from the common cold to heart disease and breast cancer. Using a list of 46 common symptoms, researchers found the occurrance of these problems to be 37% higher among divorcees even after adjusting the data to account for differences in age, income, and other related factors.

Common sense estimates that both partners experience depressive episodes after a divorce, even though some see it as a method of escaping an unhappy situation. Still, the scope and consistency of the study's results is disturbing, and the only logical conclusion one can draw is that the stresses of divorce make women more susceptible to later health problems. Each of the women involved in the study was mother to an adolescent when first interviewed in 1991, and most were not economically advantaged, a fact that raises additional concerns on behalf of their children. Many socioeconomic factors add to the woes of these women, especially if they have not been sufficiently educated or trained in preparation for the job market. Divorced women simply have fewer job opportunities, only adding to the initial stresses due to changes made neccessary by divorce: living situations, insurance, and childcare must inevitably be rearranged.

Many question the commonly cited belief that approximately 50% of American marriages end in divorce, and by most counts the divorce rate in our country has declined slightly over the last decade, but the percentages are still depressingly high, and the number of people directly affected by each divorce is much greater than two. The relatively narrow field of participants in this study invites more extensive research, but the patterns observed will almost certainly hold true across cultural divides. Earlier studies by the same group indicated that the mental and physical health of both spouses suffers if they express doubts about the quality of their marriage. So, while a quality marriage seems to benefit all involved parties, unsatisfying relationships and divorce can be devastating in ways that reach far beyond immediate emotional distress.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy