Contact: Kyle Bourassa, M.A.
For Release: Immediately
There’s solid evidence that adults who are divorced die earlier overall than married people, but the reasons why have mostly remained a mystery. Now a provocative new study suggests that separation and divorce may spur a downward spiral that starts with less life satisfaction, can continue through poor care of one’s health and seems to end with risk of earlier death. The new report on nearly 6,000 people followed over eight years will be released today at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Louisville, KY.
“There’s a lot of research on well-being after divorce but much less on how psychological aspects could lead to earlier death,” says study author Kyle Bourassa, M.A., a doctoral candidate in psychology at University of Arizona. The study followed the middle-aged to elderly adults over eight years. More than 900 of the participants were separated or divorced, the rest married. Researchers used key facts gathered on the participants’ life satisfaction, health-related behaviors such as physical activity and smoking, and lung function. By the end of the eight-year study period, the separated or divorced were almost 50% more likely to have died. Bourassa took account of age and gender, which affect survival, but the link to marital status remained significant.
Most importantly, following the people over time revealed a pathway that could be lifethreatening. Marital split-ups were associated with lower satisfaction with life, which predicted less physical activity. Divorced people also were more likely than the married to be smoking. The combination of less exercise and more smoking predicted poorer lung functioning within two years. And poorer lung function among the separated and divorced, in turn, significantly raised the likelihood of dying by the eight-year follow-up, when the study ended. The differences in life satisfaction, smoking rates, physical activity and lung function fully explained the higher death rate for separated and divorced adults, Bourassa says.
“Life satisfaction and these health behaviors linked to divorce are important to consider and, in some way, alter in order to reduce the risk of early death for separated and divorced people,” he adds.
The American Psychosomatic Society (APS) (http://www.psychosomatic.org), founded in 1943, is an international multidisciplinary academic society that conducts an annual scientific meeting and educational programs. Psychosomatic Medicine is its scientific journal. The membership of over 700 is composed of academic scientists and clinicians in medicine, psychiatry, epidemiology, health psychology and allied health services. The mission of the APS is “to advance and integrate the scientific study of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in health and disease.”