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Divorce is bad for your health

October 8th, 2013

The News Story – Divorce wave to follow Obamacare rollout?

Critics of the Affordable Care Act have debated hotly for some time now, citing concerns over skyrocketing prices, affordability, and even constitutionality.  This week, amidst the unrolling of the government health insurance exchanges program, Janice Fioravante at Financial Planning asks a new question: Will the ACA actually encourage divorces?

Fioravante writes that if the health insurance exchanges do indeed make insurance more affordable, some separated couples may choose to finalize their divorces.  She cites financial planners who claim that “health insurance definitely comes up a lot” when working out the details of a divorce.  Couples even go so far as to legally separate but stay married so that one spouse can gain from the other’s insurance plan.

How wide is this phenomenon?  How much of an impact will the ACA have?  It’s difficult to say, but surely any measure that discourages a couple from relying on each other emotionally, spiritually, and financially also serves to encourage any tempting thoughts of divorce.  And divorce, researchers have long known, isn’t good for anyone’s health.

The New Research – The divorce lawyer and the mortician

A striking correlation between divorce and premature death has been noted in a number of studies.  That correlation is all the more impressive now that researchers at the University of Arizona have completed a comprehensive analysis integrating a raft of such studies.

The sheer scope of this new analysis (more precisely, a meta-analysis) of divorce and mortality rates is remarkable: the Arizona scholars bring together 32 prospective studies (involving more than 6.5 million people, 160,000 deaths, and over 755,000 divorces in 11 different countries).   The chief finding of this prodigious collation of data is crystal clear: the data reveal “a significant increase in risk for early death among separated/divorced adults in comparison to their married counterparts.”

Quantifying the elevation of risk, the researchers calculate that when divorced adults are compared to married peers, they face “a 23% increase in the probability of being dead from all causes at each future assessment.” Though the risk associated with divorce seemed particularly pronounced among younger men, that risk was remarkably widespread, appearing in country after country, study after study.  So robust was this linkage between divorce and early death that the researchers conclude that “the number of control variables . . . was unassociated with mortality risk.”

Keep reading.

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