Divorce causes immediate mental and physical health impacts. A new study published by Frontiers reveals that going through a divorce impacts both mental and physical health. By gaining a better understanding of these effects, experts can develop interventions to support divorcees through the difficult process and to help them avoid long-term health consequences.
The study is the first of its kind to examine health impacts immediately after a divorce. The researchers found that higher levels of conflict predicted worse mental health outcomes.
Many countries require a separation period before couples can apply for divorce. According to the researchers, a lengthy separation may allow psychological wounds to heal, so studies that have focused on these circumstances may underestimate the more immediate health impacts.
“Previous studies have not investigated the effects of divorce without extensive separation periods occurring before the divorce,” said Professor Gert Hald of the University of Copenhagen. “We were able to study divorcees who had been granted a so-called ‘immediate’ divorce in Denmark and on average, these divorcees obtained a divorce within 5 days of filing for it.”
The team obtained “real-time” data on 1,856 very recent divorcees, who reported on their background, health, and their divorce.
“The mental and physical health of divorcees was significantly worse than the comparative background population immediately following divorce,” said Dr. Søren Sander.
The analysis revealed some interesting trends among the divorcees. Men who earned more money had better physical health, while having more children or a new partner predicted better mental health after a split. Among women, those who had decided to end the marriage or had a new partner tended to walk away with better mental health.
Regardless, conflict was found to be the most influential factor on mental health. “Across gender, higher levels of divorce conflict were found to predict worse mental health, even when accounting for other socio-demographic variables and divorce characteristics,” said Dr. Sander.
The research suggests that targeted treatment is needed to support individuals early on in the process.
“We need evidence-based interventions that can help divorcees immediately following divorce,” said Hald. “These might include face-to-face or digital interventions that are designed to reduce the specific adverse mental and physical health effects of divorce.”
“Not only would this be beneficial for divorcees, but it could also save money by countering the negative impacts of divorce on work-place productivity, sick days, doctor visits and use of health care facilities.”
The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer