They also had 23 percent more conditions that limited their ability to get around.
People who remarried were somewhat less likely to have these problems than those who had stayed single but still more problems than those who remained married.
The research did not confirm that the end of a marriage directly lead to poor health. To definitively confirm a cause and effect, researchers would have to randomly assign people to stay married or stop being married and see what happened.
Stress could be the cause of the apparent health problems, Waite said. Future research, she said, will try to pinpoint the exact effects on the body: Does blood pressure go up? Do eating habits get worse? What about dangerous inflammation in the body?
Other important factors include the nature of marriages and their breakups, said marriage researcher Janice Kiecolt-Glaser.
Her research has found that women and men who were recently divorced had weaker immune systems than those who had been divorced longer. "We also found that it mattered if you had chosen the divorce, or if your spouse was the one who asked for it," said Kiecolt-Glaser, director of health psychology at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. "You are better off being the one who walked rather than the one who was left behind."
Also, she said, those who remain preoccupied with thoughts of their former spouse -- either pro or con -- had immune problems.
The American Institute of Stress has more on the importance of emotional and social support.
SOURCES: Linda Waite, Ph.D., professor, sociology, and director, Center on Aging, University of Chicago; Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., director, Division of Health Psychology, and professor, psy
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