Very few studies have examined the long term health consequences for people who divorce.
According to Dr. Gerald F. Jacobson, director of the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center in Culver City, Calif., author of ‘The Multiple Crises of Marital Separation and Divorce “there has been a ‘disproportionate emphasis on the impact of divorce on children, and not enough attention to how divorce affects the former spouses.” Celebrities like Hollywood actress Eva Longoria and NBA player Tony Parker, who have recently made international news by filing for divorce after 7 years together, are not immune to the long term health consequences of divorce, as seen below. Erin Barry, San Antonio Spurs former player Brent Barry‘s wife has also recently filed for divorce, and has admitted to sexting with Tony Parker for months, perhaps leading to the demise of both marriages.
Both Dr. Gerald F. Jacobson and Dr. James J. Lynch, a psychologist at the University of Maryland, author of ”The Broken Heart: The Medical Consequences of Loneliness”, suggest that people’s reaction to divorce is similar to experiencing the death of a spouse. Feelings of anger, guilt and depression often become overwhelming. However unlike in bereavement, the former spouse continues on with their life, making it difficult to gain closure following a divorce.
Scientific research has long established the biological connection between emotional stress, and the development of physical illness. Untreated stress can lead to abnormal immunological functioning in those who have divorced, making them more vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses, including cancer. A study examining the health effects of divorce reveal that after a diagnosis of cancer, married people are most likely to recover, while the divorced are least likely to recover, indicating that the emotional trauma of divorce has a long-term impact on the physical health of the body.
Dr. Robert Segraves, a psychiatrist and marriage and divorce counselor at the University of Chicago Medical Center, points out that divorced people not only have higher suicide rates, but also higher rates of admission to psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics, more visits to non-psychiatric physicians than people who were married, single or widowed. Dr. Segraves points out ”There’s a lot of evidence that divorce is an overwhelming stress for most people, even if they are getting divorced for the right reasons. There’s tremendous internal and external reorganization required after a divorce. And the effects are not just short-term. We see a lot of people years later who are having trouble reconnecting with the opposite sex. Men, for instance, often have problems with impotence four or five years later because they’re scared to death to be reconnected.”
In a study of 79 men and 159 women who were separated or divorced and who went to a psychiatric crisis clinic, Dr. Jacobson found that time did not necessarily heal the wounds of divorce. While depression peaks immediately after the initial separation and then subsides, Dr. Jacobson found that those who are separated 14 months or more, whether or not they have filed for divorce, ”do not tend to improve further and may even worsen.” He also found that while women were most disturbed just before separation, ”men tend to be more depressed, anxious and suicidal after separation.”
Should you remain ‘friends with your ex” when no children are involved, such as in the marriage of Eva Longoria & Tony Parker?
While many mental health professionals purport that divorced spouses can continue to be valuable resources for one another, Dr. Jacobson found that ”more often than not, continued reliance may not be associated with better levels of mental health, particularly in women.” Results from this study suggest that ”disturbance will be less when there is a moderate amount of contact between the spouses and when emotional reliance is acknowledged when it exists.”
In spite of the negative impact divorce can have upon one’s health, divorce can also be an opportunity for positive growth. By learning and growing from the divorce experience, you will be better equipped to develop a healthy romantic relationship in the future. For more advice on how to move on and manage stress following a divorce, visit this article featured on Dr. Phil.com