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Older adults, divorce and health risks

North Carolina residents who are 50 and older and who get a divorce may face stress and health problems. Divorce is on the rise in this age group, and researchers have posited a number of reasons why this might be the case. One is that people are living longer and expect more from marriage. People are also more likely to marry for a second or third time, but those marriages are more vulnerable to ending.

Research has shown that some people who get a divorce later in life may experience depression and anxiety as a result. These psychological conditions can increase the risk of developing physical conditions, including heart disease and a weakened immune system. Stress can also lead to behaviors that affect health. For example, people who are under a great deal of stress may be less likely to exercise. They may overeat, or they might engage in risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking. Another potential danger, particularly for men, is isolation. Older women tend to suffer more financially in a divorce.

However, many older people are happier after a divorce, and there are also steps people can take to counteract the negative outcomes. People may want to join a club to expand their social life or get a pet. Regular exercise and making an effort to eat healthily can also be important.

One important consideration for older couples is what happens to their retirement accounts if they divorce. Older individuals may have less time at work to rebuild their retirement accounts if they are depleted after a divorce, and living alone is more costly than living with another person. Lower-earning people should be aware that they might be able to draw benefits based on an ex-spouse’s Social Security earnings history as long as they were married for 10 years or more.