Apparently, having some mileage on the body and soul buffers one from the pain of a breakup, as a new Michigan State University study finds divorce at a younger age hurts people’s health more than divorce later in life.
Sociology professor Dr. Hui Liu said the findings, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, suggest older people have more coping skills to deal with the stress of divorce.
“It’s clear to me that we need more social and family support for the younger divorced groups,” said Liu. “This could include divorce counseling to help people handle the stress, or offering marital therapy or prevention programs to maintain marital satisfaction.”
Liu analyzed the self-reported health of 1,282 participants in a long-term national survey. She measured the gap in health status between those who remained married during the 15-year study period and those who transitioned from marriage to divorce at certain ages and among different birth cohorts, or generations.
Liu found the gap was wider at younger ages. For example, among people born in the 1950s, those who got divorced between the ages of 35 and 41 reported more health problems in relation to their continuously married counterparts than those who got divorced in the 44 to 50 age range.
One surprise in the research was the finding that divorce has more of a negative heath impact for baby boomers than for older generations.
“I would have expected divorce to carry less stress for the younger generation, since divorce is more prevalent for them,” she said.
Liu said this may be because the pressure to marry and stay married was stronger for older generations, and so those who did divorce may have been among the most unhappily married – and thus felt a certain degree of relief when they did divorce.
Overall, the study found that those who went from being married to divorced experienced a more rapid health decline than those who remained married.
However, those who remained divorced during the entire study period showed no difference than those who remained married.
“This suggests it is not the status of being married or divorced, per se, that affects health, but instead is the process of transitioning from marriage to divorce that is stressful and hurts health,” Liu said.
Source: Michigan State University