A new Duke Medicine study has discovered that divorce seems to increase medical risks more in women than in men.
Researchers discovered divorced women suffer heart attacks at higher rates than women who are continuously married. Furthermore, a woman who has been through two or more divorces is nearly twice as likely to have a heart attack when compared to their stably married female peers.
A man’s risk for heart attack is typically higher than a woman’s. However, the effects of divorce seem to disproportionately affect women’s cardiac health more than men although the results were not statistically significant.
Men who had been divorced had about the same risk as those who stayed married. It was only after two or more divorces that the risk for men went up, the study found.
As discussed in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a salient finding is that even among women who remarry after the stress of divorce, their heart attack risk remains elevated.
“Divorce is a major stressor, and we have long known that people who are divorced suffer more health consequences,” said Matthew Dupre, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at Duke and the study’s lead author.
“But this is one of the first studies to look at the cumulative effect of divorce over a long period. We found that it can have a lasting imprint on people’s health.”
Researchers used data gathered from the responses of a nationally representative group of 15,827 people ages 45 to 80 who had been married at least once. Participants were interviewed every two years from 1992 to 2010 about their marital status and health. About one-third of participants had been divorced at least once during the 18-year study.
Another finding from the study was that men who remarried also fared better than women. These men experienced the same risk of heart attack as men who had been married continuously to one partner.