There’s a fascinating new study that caught our eye this week from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looking at some long-term health effects of divorce on both men and women. The results were of particular concern to men, as the Daily Mail presented it. In stark terms, they said, “Divorce and living alone could lead to ill health and death for middle-aged men.”
It’s not quite that simple, of course. The study looked at 4,800 people aged 48 to 62, gauging both their inflammation levels (measuring interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein in blood samples) and relationship histories. The findings reinforced the idea that divorce is a major life event, and the most concerning lab indicators for health occurred in men with at least two significant breakups and those who lived alone for at least seven years after a divorce.
The article observed, “Women who experienced multiple relationship breakdowns, or spent a long time living alone, saw no increase in inflammation.
This may be because middle-aged women, compared with men of the same age, typically have larger friendship groups offering more emotional support, which helps prevent stress from affecting their health.”
According to the Mail’s article, Professor Rikke Lund of the University of Copenhagen, the senior author of the study, observed:
Evidence shows that men tend to depend more on their female partners than the other way around, so are more vulnerable if they lose them.
Men of the age we looked at tend to have smaller social networks than women, so are at a higher risk of loneliness, which might increase inflammation.
There is also evidence that men living alone may not look after themselves as well, and are more reluctant to consult a doctor for medical problems.
This could explain the increased levels of inflammation in men following multiple break-ups and more years living alone.
While it’s just one study, it does highlight some differences in the way that men and women process emotions following the disruption of a divorce — including the suggestion that men may be more prone to drinking in their post-divorce isolation, and that could also be a factor in their collective health, reflected in the study’s results.
What we get out of the study is the need for everyone, but especially men who find themselves alone after a divorce, to cultivate good, healthy friendships as part of their post-divorce lives. It’s important for people going through divorce to look after their emotional well-being, and that absolutely needs to carry over to what they do after their divorce.
Though divorce is a legal process with financial implications, and though people should go into divorce with that mindset, we’ve worked with enough divorcing couples at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance to know how much of an emotional toll divorce can take.
While we emphasize to clients that’s it’s best to work through your emotions with a licensed counselor — and also your lawyer — we do take an approach to divorce that understands and validates the emotions you might be feeling as you go through a major life-changing event. There’s a reason, after all, that the word compassionate is part of our Fierce, Compassionate Lawyers motto.