Disclosures: The authors report that the study was financially supported by The Carlsberg Foundation Distinguished Associate Professor Fellowship.
December 09, 2020
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Divorce has immediate impact on mental, physical health

Disclosures: The authors report that the study was financially supported by The Carlsberg Foundation Distinguished Associate Professor Fellowship.
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Mental and physical health was worse among recently divorced adults compared with the general population, according to research published in Frontiers in Psychology.

“Previous studies have not investigated the effects of divorce without extensive separation periods occurring before the divorce,” Gert Hald, PhD, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, said in a press release. “We were able to study divorcees who had been granted a so-called ‘immediate’ divorce in Denmark and on average, these divorcees obtained a divorce within 5 days of filing for it.”

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Mental and physical health was worse among recently divorced adults compared with the general population, according to research published in Frontiers in Psychology. Source: Adobe Stock.

The researchers said there is a “high social acceptance” of divorce in Denmark, and it is generally not stigmatized the way it is in other countries. This, combined with the fact that the country has high level of gender and income equality, gives Denmark a unique context to study the impact of divorce on mental and physical health.

Adults were sent invitations that described a study of an intervention meant to improve the physical and mental health of adults after divorce by the Danish State Administration when they were sent their official divorce decree. People who then completed a baseline survey were sent additional invitations to participate in the intervention at 3, 6 and 12 months.

Hald and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study of the baseline survey results, which included 1,856 recently divorced adults in Denmark, 88% of whom were parents. The average age of participants was 44.65 years for women and 46.66 years for men.

The average length of marriage was 12.22 years for men and 13 years for women.

Hald and colleagues found that recently divorced men had lower role physical scores — which indicate role limitations from physical health issues — worse general health, lower vitality, decreased social functioning and worse mental health than the general male population, but had better physical functioning and lower levels of bodily pain.

Women who were recently divorced had lower role physical scores, worse general health, lower vitality, lower social functioning, worse mental health and decreased role emotional capacity compared with the general female population. Similar to recently divorced men, recently divorced women had better physical functioning and lower levels of bodily pain.

Hald and colleagues found that higher levels of conflict in divorce predicted worse mental health in both men and women and predicted worse physical health in women, regardless of other sociodemographic factors or divorce characteristics.

Hald and colleagues found that younger age and increased income predicted better physical health in recently divorced men, and having more children, having more past divorces, being the spouse to initiate divorce and having a new partner predicted better mental health.

Among recently divorced women, the researchers determined that better physical health was predicted by higher income, fewer past divorces, having a new partner and lower divorce conflict. Better mental health in recently divorced women was predicted by higher income, being the spouse to initiate divorce, having a new partner and lower divorce conflict.

“We need evidence-based interventions that can help divorcees immediately following divorce,” Hald said. “These might include face-to-face or digital interventions that are designed to reduce the specific adverse mental and physical health effects of divorce. Not only would this be beneficial for divorcees, but it could also save money by countering the negative impacts of divorce on workplace productivity, sick days, doctor visits and use of health care facilities.”

References:

Sander S, et al. Front Psychol. 2020;doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.578083.

Press Release.