A study published in the December issue of Psychological Science finds divorce leaves a lasting effect on our satisfaction levels. A person’s happiness level drops as she or he approaches divorce and gradually rebounds over time. But the level of satisfaction does not return to baseline (the level of satisfaction felt prior to the divorce.) Although some rebounding does occur in the years immediately following, there are lasting changes. “Instead people’s satisfaction ended up .22 to .34 points lower than baseline levels,” author Richard Lucas states.
To measure the long-term life changes before and after a divorce the author used data from an 18-year study of 30,000 Germans that examined their reactions. The surveys were conducted yearly using face-to-face interviews and respondents participated in at least one of the 18 waves. The author found that neither age nor sex moderated the effects of divorce on happiness and satisfaction. “Researchers, clinicians, and friends and family members of persons who have experienced such events should not assume that time naturally heals all wounds,” Dr. Lucas concludes. “Instead, some people may never adapt to some life events, at least not without intervention.”