Study finds that divorce may negatively affect heart health

Divorce can be stressful, financially costly and emotionally devastating, as many people in Charlotte know firsthand. Divorces can have lasting effects on mental health, promoting stress, depression and more. Unfortunately, the effects of divorce might not be purely psychological. New research suggests that divorcing can also raise a person's risk of suffering a heart attack.

Surprising divorce consequences

Researchers recently analyzed data on over 15,000 people that was collected from 1992 to 2010, according to Reuters. All of these people were between ages 45 and 80 and had been married at least one time. About one-third of the study participants were divorced by the time that the study finished.

The researchers found that women who divorced were significantly more likely to suffer heart attacks than anyone else in the study. After one divorce, women were 24 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than women who were married. After two divorces, women were 77 percent more likely to have heart attacks. Men who divorced twice, meanwhile, were about 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than men who remained married.

The researchers found that this apparent health risk was mitigated among men who remarried. However, tying the knot again did not offer the same health benefits for women. Women who remarried were still 35 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than continuously married women.

Likely risk factors

Heart attacks may be linked to divorce because of the emotional strain that accompanies divorce. Divorcing spouses often feel emotions such as stress and anxiety, which can contribute to cardiovascular problems. The loss of social support from a spouse or friends can exacerbate these feelings. Furthermore, some divorcing spouses may cope with difficult emotions through unhealthy habits, such as drinking and smoking.

The researchers aren't sure why women appear more likely than men to suffer heart attacks after divorcing. However, they note that women often experience greater financial losses and emotional upheaval during divorce. These factors could contribute to a heightened risk of various health problems, including heart disease.

Less stressful divorces

One option that may help spouses reduce the health risks of divorce is collaborative law divorce. As CNBC explains, during a collaborative divorce, spouses work with their own attorneys and neutral professionals. Child specialists, financial advisors and other experts offer advice on the optimal solution for both parties. Each spouse's attorney, meanwhile, helps ensure that the spouse agrees to a fair settlement.

In North Carolina, spouses have the right to reach an independent collaborative agreement before seeking approval from a family law court. If spouses ultimately cannot reach an agreement, they can pursue a regular divorce. If collaboration is successful, however, it offers several of the same advantages that mediation does. These include the following benefits:

  • Cost savings - CNBC notes that litigation may cost more than twice what collaborative divorce does. This is especially true of prolonged, contentious litigation.
  • Reduced strife - during collaborative divorce, spouses do not take on adversarial or combative roles. Instead, they work together to find solutions.
  • Fitting settlement terms - collaborative divorce allows spouses to reach terms that are most favorable for their unique situation. In contrast, a court-ordered settlement may not offer as fitting of a solution.

Together, these benefits may help reduce the risk of physical and psychological health problems developing due to divorce.

People who are preparing for divorces may benefit from consulting with a family law attorney beforehand. An attorney may be able to explain the benefits of different approaches to divorce. An attorney may also be able to provide representation during whatever approach spouses ultimately choose.