Divorcees are 47 percent more likely to die prematurely, new research suggests.Separating from a spouse increases people’s risk of passing away early due to them being more likely to take up smoking and no longer exercising, a study found.
They are thought to adopt these habits as a result of them having less life satisfaction, the research adds.The findings were published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Previous research suggests people are more likely to die young after getting divorced due to them no longer having a spouse who nags them to lead healthy lifestyles.Lead author Kyle Bourassa, from the University of Arizona, United States (US), said: “If you imagine a husband or wife who doesn’t smoke and their partner does, one might try to influence the other’s behaviour.
“In many ways, when relationships end, we lose that important social control of our health behaviours.”The researchers believe future studies should assess how diet and alcohol consumption changes when people divorce or separate.
They also think the health of widowed and remarried people should be investigated.Bourassa said: “This is a subgroup of people that are at greater risk for these poorer health behaviours, so the goal might be to target them for interventions to hopefully improve their long-term health.
“We have interventions for people who smoke and we have interventions for people who don’t get enough exercise, so if we know someone who is divorced, maybe we should ask, “Are you smoking? Are you getting enough physical activity?”
“Finding that life satisfaction seems to link divorce to physical activity levels also suggests that interventions to improve people’s life satisfaction and psychological wellbeing could translate downstream to physical health improvements.”
The researchers analysed 5,786 people over 50 living in the United Kingdom (UK).Of which, 926 were divorced or separated and had not remarried. The remainder were married. Over 10 years, the participants’ life satisfaction, exercise levels, smoking statuses and lung functions were assessed.The researchers also tracked the number of participants who died during the study.