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Divorce hurts health more at a younger age: study

You'd think it would be easier to get over a divorce when you're young, and you don't have years of shared experiences to tackle and a lifetime's accumulation of assets to separate. But when it comes to your health, you're better off divorcing later in life.

A new study from Michigan State University has found older people have greater coping skills to deal with the stress of divorce.

Sociologist Hui Liu looked at data from nearly 1,300 participants of a long-term U.S. survey, and analyzed their self-reported health. Her study, published in the research journal Social Science & Medicine, reveals that the gap in health between people who divorced at a young age and their still-married counterparts was wider than the gap between those who divorced at an older age and married participants.

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For instance, among people who were born during the 1950s, those who divorced between the ages of 35 to 41 reported more health complaints compared to the married participants than those who divorced between the ages of 44 and 50.

Even though divorce was more common among baby boomers, the negative health impact of splitting up was worse for them than it was for older generations, according to a press release for the study.

Since older generations faced more pressure to stay married, Dr. Liu suggested those among them who did divorce might have been the most unhappily married, and therefore, they might have felt some relief when they ended their marriages.

In an earlier study, divorce was found to hurt people's health, even after remarriage. Researcher and sociologist Linda Waite of the Center on Aging at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago told LifeScience that the stress of divorce causes people to ignore their health. They become less likely to visit the doctor, less likely to exercise and more likely to sleep poorly. Even though remarriage helps put divorced individuals back on track, they're still starting from a less healthy state.

For those who've been through a divorce, how did your split affect your health?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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