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Can divorce lead to early death? Study says yes

A new study suggests that people who go through a divorce have an increased chance of dying early, in part because of some of the habits many people pick up after their marriages end.

The study is actually a University of Arizona analysis compiled from more than 30 studies published over 27 years. The studies involved more than 6.5 million adults in 11 countries, including the United States. Although it's important to note that the review did not conclusively determine that divorce will kill you at a young age, it did find that divorced adults have a 23 percent greater chance of dying than married couples.

Where does this risk come from? Much of it results from a difficulty to adjust to life after divorce. People who struggle with the change may become lonely, gain weight, have trouble sleeping or pick up bad habits such as smoking or excessive drinking. They may also have trouble forming new relationships or become clinically depressed, which carries its own set of associated health problems.

Divorced men were shown to be at a significantly higher risk of early death than women, though that finding is somewhat inconclusive considering that men typically have a shorter life span than women anyway. But it could also stem from the fact that women are often responsible for pushing men to maintain their health: They remind them to go to the doctor, encourage them to eat less red meat and motivate them to exercise more.

But does divorce really lead to poor health, or does poor health lead to divorce? Both are predictors of early death, but which comes first? It absolutely depends on the individual and the circumstances in one's life. It should also be noted that for many people, divorce is not a problem, but a solution that leads to increased satisfaction in their lives. But one thing is certain: If you're going through a divorce, it's important to keep your physical and mental health in check.

Source: USA Today, "UA study: Divorce can raise risk of early death," Anne Ryman, Jan. 10, 2012

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