Dr. Zhenmei Zhang, co-author of the findings from a Health and Retirement Study, found that emotional distress and a decline in financial status were the main factors linking divorce to heart disease in women.
“We found that divorced women have the lowest household income and wealth, compared to married women, widows and women who remarry,” Hayward says. “Divorce clearly leads to a drop in financial resources. Add that to the emotional distress that can stem from a change in residence, loss of social support or the potential of single parenting, and divorced middle-aged women are facing incredible stress that puts them at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to their cardiovascular health.”
The researchers were surprised the negative consequences of divorce did not go away with time, showing that divorce’s effects on women’s cardiovascular health appear to linger long after the divorce.
To read more about this study, click on this link from the University of Texas, Austin.
Another study entitled "Divorce: Trends and Consequences - Divorcing In Middle And Late Life" indicated that certain kinds of support can alleviate the stress of divorce.
Personal well-being following divorce also depends on social support, with some types of support being more helpful than others. Having a confidant who provides emotional and social support has been linked to reduced depression following divorce, while receiving material support can have a negative psychological effect. In addition, specific sources of support may vary based on age and gender. Middle-aged and older adults who divorce may not consider their parents as useful sources of help, while offspring may be more significant sources of support for this age group. In Carol Wright and Joseph Maxwell's 1991 study of persons divorcing after an average of twenty-eight years of marriage, women were more likely than men to rank grown children as the most helpful source of support. They received more advice, services, and financial, social, and emotional support from offspring than did men. In contrast, friends and parents reportedly provided more support than offspring to men.To read the full article, click here.
The moral of these studies, I suppose, is that while the stress of divorce can be harmful to one's health, a family's support can counteract many these bad consequences. I do not have children that I can turn to, but I do enjoy a large circle of friends, a close relationship with my brother, and the love and support of my parents.
A friend of mine forwarded this email to me this morning. In light of these two studies, truer words were never spoken:
...A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, "How heavy is this glass of water? Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. "If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance."
"In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."
He continued, "And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on. "
"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden. "
"So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work/life down. Don't carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow."
So what can you do to reduce the stress you are feeling during divorce? Find something to do that you truly enjoy. Call a close friend, hug a dog or baby, volunteer with a group that does something you find worthwhile (like rescuing pets), write a letter to an old friend, exercise, take a long bath, or watch a funny movie.
If you regularly seek relief from your pain for even five minutes, you will soon discover that the world will start to look just a little bit brighter than it did before.