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Marriage Ends, Health Declines
Date:7/27/2009

Study links divorce and widowhood to poorer health

MONDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have long thought that marriage is good for your health, but it has been less clear how you will fare if you lose your spouse to divorce or death.

Now, a new study shows that scenario spells trouble, even if you go to the altar once again.

In fact, people who ceased being married at some point in their lives were significantly more likely to have chronic health problems than those who stayed married, researchers found.

It's not clear if the dissolution of a marriage directly affects health or if some other factor is at play. Still, "marital loss does seem to be a powerful force damaging health," said sociologist and study co-author Linda Waite. "And it seems to work about the same way for men and women, and for emotional well-being and physical health."

Sociologists have studied the effects of marriage for some time, trying to figure out whether it's beneficial in a variety of ways. They've found that marriage appears to boost health, especially among men, said Waite, director of the University of Chicago's Center on Aging.

Married men, she said, have better prospects of surviving after surgery and live longer than unmarried men. "There's really tremendous research that shows this helps health," she said.

But what about those who don't stay married? What happens to them? Waite and a colleague decided to try to find out by examining a study of Americans interviewed in 1992, when they were ages 51 to 61. They focused on a sample of 8,652 people.

Their findings are to appear in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

After adjusting their statistics to account for such factors as race and gender, which could skew the results, the researchers found that those with "marital loss" -- meaning losing a spouse to death or divorce -- had 20 perc
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