I recently read an interesting article on CBSNews.com claiming that divorce is bad for your health. The article is based on the results of a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior which found that divorced and widowed adults have 20% more chronic health conditions than married people.
This makes sense to me. I’ve always heard that married people live longer healthier lives, a fact which is mentioned in the article. I’ve also heard that pet owners live longer happier lives. Contentment, happiness and good health go hand in hand.
So it makes sense that any traumatic life event has a negative effect on our mental or physical health. But the article’s headline, “Divorce May Make You Sick”, seems misleading, because anxiety and strain can come from many quarters. Whether trauma comes from an abusive relationship, a divorce, a death in the family, or violence of any kind—it is toxic to our health and well-being. Stress always takes its toll.
Should we stay in a bad marriage just to avoid chronic health problems? Of course not, it won’t work. Stress is stress and trauma is trauma. Clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere agrees; “If you’re in a “toxic” relationship that involves physical or mental abuse or in a relationship where you just can’t get along, it’s best to get out of it because the health benefits of divorce are much better than staying in a bad situation.”
The article makes the suggestion that if you are contemplating divorce you may want to have your doctor on hand. As preventive care, this may be overkill, but I like to think that my primary care physician is always available when needed, anyways.
And if you’re hoping that a quick remarriage will negate the ill-effects on your health caused by divorce you may be disappointed; the study suggests that remarriage won’t reverse the negative health impact for years. But that shouldn’t stop you from taking the plunge a second time. “Go ahead and remarry,” says Dr. Gardere, “…you can get better in time.”
I think the lesson to be taken from this is that everyone should take measures to be proactive about physical and emotional health. Do what you can to reduce trauma in your life. Remove yourself from violent and abusive environments. Get counseling if necessary. Keep an active body and an active mind. Maintain good nutrition, good friendships and good relationships. And most of all keep a good attitude – bad things sometimes happen to good people, but it doesn’t mean your life is over. Sometimes it means your life is just beginning.