Thursday, July 30, 2009

Divorce Takes a Toll on Long-Term Health

Results from a new study to be published in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior show that divorce or losing a spouse to death can exact an immediate and long-lasting toll on a person's health, even after remarriage, according to AOL News.

"That period during the time that this event is taking place is extremely stressful," said study researcher Linda Waite, a sociologist and director of the Center on Aging at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. "People ignore their health; they're stressed, which is itself a health risk; they're less likely to go to the doctor; they're less likely to exercise; they're sleeping poorly."

It turns out — once you have tarnished your health — it's hard to snap back, even if you tie the knot again. "Remarriage helps. It puts you back on a healthy trajectory," Waite told LiveScience. "But, it puts you back on a healthy trajectory from a lower point, because you didn't take care of yourself for a year."

Waite and Mary Elizabeth Hughes of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland analyzed data collected from nearly 9,000 adults ages 51-61 who took part in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study.

Results of the study showed that those who had been divorced or widowed suffered from 20 percent more chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, compared with individuals who were currently married. Additionally, individuals who remarried reported an average of 12 percent more chronic conditions and 19 percent more physical limitations compared with the continuously married.

While "some health situations, like depression, seem to respond both quickly and strongly to changes in current conditions," Waite said, "conditions such as diabetes and heart disease develop slowly over a substantial period and show the impact of past experiences, which is why health is undermined by divorce or widowhood, even when a person remarries."

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

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