Study reveals divorce can negatively impact physical, mental health

Couple. (File Photo: IANS)
The study showed that a recent divorce takes an emotional and physical toll. Image courtesy: IANS

London: Going through a divorce is extremely challenging and now a new study reveals that it can negatively impact mental and physical health.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, found that the mental and physical health of recent divorcees was worse than that of the background population and that higher levels of conflict predicted worse mental health, regardless of other factors.

Researchers have been examining the mental and physical effects of divorce, but may have missed an opportunity to accurately characterize these effects, until now.

Divorce is often a protracted process, with many countries requiring a separation period before couples can apply for divorce.

However, a long separation may allow psychological wounds to heal and assessing divorcees after such a period may underestimate their impact.

"Previous studies have not investigated the effects of divorce without extensive separation periods occurring before the divorce," said study author Gert Hald from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

"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 five days of filing for it," Hald added.

For the study, the research team obtained 'real-time' data on 1,856 very recent divorcees, who completed questionnaires about their background, health and their divorce.

Unsurprisingly, the study showed that a recent divorce takes an emotional and physical toll.

The mental and physical health of divorcees was significantly worse than the comparative background population immediately following divorce.

However, some interesting trends emerged from the data.

For instance, among men, earning more and being younger predicted better physical health, while having more children, having a new partner and even having more previous divorces was associated with better mental health.

Among women, earning more money, having a new partner and having fewer previous divorces was associated with better physical health, while initiating the divorce and having a new partner predicted better mental health.

However, one factor had a big influence on the divorcees -- conflict.

"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 researchers.

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