Divorce has a negative impact on physical and mental health, study finds

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  • A study found divorcees reported worse mental and physical health immediately after their divorce than the general public. 
  • The study, published in Frontiers of Psychology, surveyed 1,900 Danish divorcees. 
  • Overall, they reported worse physical health, energy levels, mental health, and ability to handle social situations than the general population.
  • The most important factor for physical and mental health following a divorce was the level of conflict within it.
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An increasing number of divorces this holiday season may be more than unfortunate byproduct of the pandemic. A new study that's the first of its kind found divorce may impact people's physical and mental health as well.  

The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, surveyed 1,900 divorcees in Denmark. The participants filled out questionnaires on the nature of their divorce, their background, and their health. 

Overall, the results found the quality of life for people immediately after their divorce was worse than the average Danish population. 

"The mental and physical health of divorcees was significantly worse than the comparative background population immediately following divorce," Dr. Søren Sander, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, said in a press release. 

Divorcees had more trouble physically functioning, reported more bodily pain, and had worse overall physical health 

The questionnaire measured overall physical health, mental health, social functioning (ability to interact with others), and vitality (or general energy level).

Divorcees reported worse outcomes immediately after their divorce in every major box, with the largest gap in mental health. 

Stress, like that caused by divorce, has been previously linked to worse overall health, triggering weaker immune systems, worse cardiovascular health, poor sleep quality, and heightened anxiety and depression.  

The nature of a divorce also appears to determines what toll it takes on a person's health. Less conflict during the divorce led to better physical and mental health for divorcees compared to couples with higher rates of conflict.

"Across gender, higher levels of divorce conflict were found to predict worse mental health, even when accounting for other socio-demographic variables and divorce characteristics," Sander said.

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