New research shows that divorce may be linked to increased risks of heart attack, especially in women. A study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that divorced women were at least 24% more likely to experience a heart attack compared to women who remained married. “We looked at lifetime exposure to not only current marital status, but how many times someone has been divorced in the past. What we found was that repeated exposure to divorce put men and women -- but particularly women -- at higher risk of having a heart attack compared to those who were married,” said lead author Matthew Dupre, an associate professor of sociology at Duke University. Researchers used data from almost 16,000 adults aged 45 to 80 who were married or had been previously. The researchers interviewed them every two years starting 1992 to 2010. About one-third of the participants had been divorced at least once and during the course of the study, 8%, or more than 1,200 adults, had a heart attack. Data showed that women who were divorced once had a 24% increased risk of a heart attack. Women who had divorced more than once raised their risk of a heart attack to 77%.
This was not the same for men, however. Only men who had divorced more than once had an increased risk of 30% compared to those who stayed with their spouses. “The health consequences of social stresses are real,” said Dupre. “We suspect that the acute and chronic stress associated with divorce may have played an important role in our findings for both sexes,” added the study. The findings of this study, however, do not mean that women should stay in unhappy marriages to avoid risking a heart attack, wrote medical journalist and contributor to Forbes.com Larry Husten. “This study can’t tell you if it’s a good idea or bad idea to get a divorce. There’s no reason to think that staying in an unhappy marriage would be lower-risk than getting a divorce,” he wrote.
Sources: April 14, 2015. "Heart Attack Risk Jumps After Divorce". forbes.com April 14, 2015. "What Divorce Does to Women’s Heart Health". time.com April 16, 2015. "Divorce May Be Bad for the Heart, Especially for Women". nytimes.com