Do Divorced People Die Younger?


"Will getting a divorce make me die younger?" isn't a common question posed by those looking for divorce advice in Pasadena. But it might not be such a weird question after all. A new study conducted by David Sbarra, Rita Law and Robert Portley from the University of Arizona looked at the correlation between early death and divorce - and the results are surprising, to say the least.

The trio gathered information from 32 studies involving more than 6 million people in 11 countries and included 755,000 divorces and 160,000 deaths. Adults who were divorced were 23 percent more likely to die younger than their married counterparts.

"Men had almost twice as high a risk of early death compared to women," writes Robert Hughes for the Huffington Post, who explored the results of the study last week on his blog. "People younger than 65 years of age were more at risk following divorce than older people. This pattern was consistent regardless of what country people lived in."

The researchers also wondered if divorce actually caused death. While the question might sound crazy, Hughes points out, "One important consideration is a selection effect that accounts for both divorce and death."

According to the study, "social selection holds that some people possess characteristics that increase risk for both separation/divorce and poor health outcomes. Hostility, depression and substance abuse are just a few examples of the many processes that can increase the likelihood of future divorce... and are unique predictors of early death."

Financial loss, increase of smoking and consuming alcohol and poor eating and sleeping habits post-divorce are some of the possible reasons why divorce might lead to an early death. Yet the researchers are quick to point out that the findings shouldn't be interpreted as inevitabilities. Divorced people who remarry were not taken into account in this survey, and the researchers suggest more work needs to be done in connecting divorce and death before conclusions can be made absolutely.