Men’s Health and Divorce

Divorce takes a great mental and physical toll on men because divorced (as well as unmarried men) are more prone to health problems, drug abuse and depression than married men and have higher rates of mortality, according to research published in the Journal Of Men’s Health.

The paper, titled “The Influence of Divorce on Men’s Health,” says that divorced and unmarried suffer mortality rates up to 250 percent higher than married men. Cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke lead the causes of premature death for divorced men. Life-threatening health problems like cancer and heart attacks also plague divorced men.

Researchers found that divorced men are more likely to partake in risky activities, such as abusing alcohol and drugs, and divorced or separated men have a suicide rate that is 39 percent higher than that of married men. Depression is also more common for divorced men than married men, and divorced men undergo psychiatric care 10 times more often than married men do.

Authors Daniel S. Felix, PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, W. David Robinson, PhD, Utah State University, Logan, and Kimberly J. Jarzynka, MD, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, demonstrate that doctors must recognize and treat men’s divorce-related health problems.

The health problems of divorced men also worsen over time. Married men take better care of their health with more frequent doctor visits and have a more positive outlook on their health and well being overall. One of the reasons for this is the financial impact and loss of social support that often follows divorce.

The impact that divorce has on both physical and mental states is often hard to diagnose and is also easy to ignore. Physicians and counseling professionals often face challenges in addressing emotional or social problems in men because men tend to focus on physical symptoms, often neglecting the psychological issues that may cause the problem.

Explaining the importance of the study’s findings, Dr. Ridwan Shabsigh, the president of the International Society of Men’s Health, said: “Popular perception, and many cultures as well as the media present men as tough, resilient, and less vulnerable to psychological trauma than women. However, this article serves as a warning signal not to follow such unfounded perceptions,” he said. “The fact is that men get affected substantially by psychological trauma and negative life events such as divorce, bankruptcy, war, and bereavement. Research is urgently needed to investigate the prevalence and impact of such effects and to develop diagnosis and treatment guidelines for practitioners.”

Dr. Shabsigh is President of the International Society of Men’s Health (ISMH); Chairman, Department of Surgery, St. Barnabas Hospital (Bronx, NY); and Professor of Clinical Urology, Cornell University (New York).

This research is not the first study to look at how divorce affects people’s health. A study out of Finland found that antidepressant use spikes in the months preceding divorce, and a study published in July 2013 found that children of divorce may be more susceptible to serious health problems later in life.

Divorce not only effects separating spouses but can also have a long- term negative health impact on the lives of their children. Parental divorce during the childhood of a male has been associated with a greater risk of substance abuse and physical health problems in later life, often caused by a lack of financial resources or a stable family environment following a family breakup.

The Journal of Men’s Health is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly in print and online that covers all aspects of men’s health across the lifespan. The Journal publishes cutting-edge advances in a wide range of diseases and conditions, including diagnostic procedures, therapeutic management strategies, and innovative clinical research in gender-based biology to ensure optimal patient care.

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