When Joanne filed for divorce, she mentally prepared for the changes in her lifestyle, the questions from friends, and even the anger from her children. She felt sure she could handle the challenges to come.
What she didn’t count on? Her heart attack.
It seems so unfair. Divorce affects finances, children, lifestyle. People assume that at least their bodies will keep going.
Yet, recent studies reveal that divorce has a long-term, negative impact on physical health. According to Linda Waite, coauthor of a study for the University of Chicago, the physical impacts of divorce last far longer than the mental.
Couples going through divorce should know the risks so you can protect your health.
Health risks include:
- Cardiovascular disease: The stress of divorce seems to accelerate the biological processes that cause heart disease–leading to a 22% rise in risk of cardiovascular disease, with the risks increasing up to 30% for women.
- Mobility issues: After divorce people were 27% more likely to be diagnosed with decreased mobility than married counterparts. They struggle to climb stairs, walk short distances, or engage in routine activities. An impairment that can reduce exercise, thus increasing risks for heart disease.
- Depression: Women are 3.5 times more likely to experience depression after divorce than women who remain married. Men are 6 times more likely to experience depression.
- Substance abuse: Anxiety, depression, loneliness – all these too often translate into individuals self-medicating through drugs or overuse of alcohol.
- Metabolic changes: Metabolic changes can cause severe weight loss or gain, which can damage physical health. Women are much more likely to get metabolic syndrome indicated by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol, all tied to chronic disease.
- Long-term health issues: 22% of divorcees experience increased diagnoses of other long-term illnesses, such as cancer or diabetes
What can you do?
- See your doctor: Divorced people are generally less likely to seek routine healthcare, often because of financial strain or loss of insurance coverage through a spouse. People cannot build a new life with a failing body. Make the appointment for routine screenings and inform your healthcare provider of the divorce so that proper monitoring can be put into place.
- Eat healthy foods: Food is more than calories; it provides the ingredients for the chemistry of a body. Healthy eating translates to healthier bodies.
- Exercise: As you get up and move, mobility issues diminish as do risk factors for other health issues. Interesting note–some studies claim walking 2 miles each day is as effective as Prozac in treating depression. If you begin to feel down, that evening walk may be the antidote you’ve been looking for.
- Seek human contact: Happily married people experience far fewer health issues, showing the importance of strong relationships. While many recent divorcees dive into romantic connections to ease their broken heart, these can do more damage than good. Instead, focus on the healthy friendships already in place–or work to cultivate new ones–to combat the loss of relationship in divorce. As you receive the affirmation, encouragement, and interest key to healthy relationships–your body gets healthier.
- Intentionally plan your future: Hope lifts spirits and positively impacts the chemical reactions in bodies. Focus on taking control of your life and what you will do rather than what you have lost. Make a list of all the interests or activities set aside in order to actively participate in marriage. Decide on those you would like to rekindle. Decide to see those places you wanted to see. Take up the hobby you used to love. Explore the job you always wished you had tried. As people focus on where they want to go in life, bodies respond.
- Choose mediation–The studies showing physical harm of divorce were based on a traditional, litigated approach.
While there have been no studies comparing health outcomes based on divorce process, The Resolution Center offers couples a process where they are respected, their priorities taken seriously, and they have control over the agreements that will shape their futures. Instead of an adversarial fight, couples work together–eliminating many of the major stress factors that lead to health issues.
If you would like more information on divorce in general or how to engage in a healthier process specifically, call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to serving you.