NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 1, 2006

Women may give up more than a husband by divorcing -- they may also lose some of their good health, according to a study by Iowa State University.

The study, spanning 10 years, focused on what happens to rural women's health after their marriage ends, compared with women who stay married, said Fred Lorenz, who co-authored the report.

"What we found was that the act of getting a divorce produced no immediate effects on (physical) health, but it did have effects on mental health," Lorenz said. "Ten years later, those effects on mental health led to effects in physical health."

  • During the years immediately after divorce -- from 1991 to 1994 -- the divorced women reported 7 percent higher levels of psychological distress than married women; they did not report any differences in physical illness at that time.
  • A decade later, however, the divorced women reported 37 percent more physical illness, but no difference in psychological stress that could be directly linked to the divorce.
  • The women in the study marked off illnesses from a list of 46 choices ranging from the common cold and sore throat to heart conditions and cancer.

Lorenz said it appears there is a link between the higher number of physical illnesses and the different stresses associated with divorce, including financial problems, demotions, layoffs and parenting problems.  He added that divorced women, especially in rural areas, have poor job opportunities and fewer support systems.

The authors say the women also suffer stress from having to make changes in housing, insurance, transportation and time with children.

Source: Amy Lorentzen, "Study: Divorced women have more illness," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 1, 2006.

For Iowa State text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues