People Who Divorce Face a Higher Risk of Heart Attack
A new study shows that people who divorce at least once are more likely to have a heart attack, and for women, remarriage doesn’t help.
Duke University researchers led the study, which looked at 16,000 adults over two decades, and found that those who divorced, at least once, were more likely to have a heart attack at some point than those who remained married to their first partners. The study’s adults ranged in age from 45 to 80, and examined their lives and divorces from 1992 to 2010.
“The negative health consequences of divorce have been known for some time,” said lead author Matthew E. Dupre of Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina. “Earlier studies have suggested that marital loss has a greater impact on the health of women than men …The reasons for these differences are not entirely known; however, the prevailing view is that divorced women suffer greater economic losses and emotional distress than divorced men.”
“Men are also much more likely to remarry after divorce than women, and among those who remarry, men remarry sooner than women,” he added.
At the beginning of the study, 14% of men and 19% of women were divorced; by the end, about 1/3 of the participants had divorced. Remarriage reverses the risk only for men, the study found.
For men who divorced twice, and women who divorced once, the risk of heart attack was higher. And for women who divorced at least twice, the risk became comparable to high blood pressure or diabetes – they were 35% more likely than continuously married women to suffer a heart attack.
The study, published on April 14th, stated that divorce was not the reason for heart attacks, but could be associated with other risk factors. For example, people who live high-stress lives are more likely to divorce and to suffer heart attacks – especially if there is money involved. And hostile personalities are more likely to divorce, especially multiple times, as well as suffer heart attacks.
Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and science at the University of California, Los Angeles, added that when people divorce, they are also more likely to let go of healthy habits like exercise and healthy eating. “They may want to assess and take proactive steps to improve their cardiovascular health,” he said.
“For example, divorced women — particularly those who go through multiple divorces — may benefit from additional screening or treatment for depression,” said Dupre.
In less emotionally-charged divorces, couples often suffered less stress and therefore less risk of heart attack – which could be an indicator of the personalities involved, or could be an indicator of the type of divorce, which may have been moderated more successfully.
“If you feel your divorce was done for good reasons, you’ve coped well with the transition (after a period of grief, you’ve got most of your life back together . . . or, at least, you feel headed in the right direction), these results may not apply,” said David A. Sbarra of the psychology department at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
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