The surprising reason men are more likely than women to suffer from ill-health after a divorce

The weird biological and social reason that men are more likely to suffer from ill-health and even die earlier after going through a divorce

Men are more likely to suffer from ill-health after divorce
(Image credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images)

A new study has suggested that men are more likely than women to suffer from medical ramifications after going through a divorce—but why is this the case?

When it comes to divorce, there are a lot of theories floating around about why it happens, whether it's always a bad idea and who is more affected by separation. Some believe that divorce can be down to your genetics and others think that divorce can be good for children, but has it ever been proven that divorce can cause serious medical issues?

A study, which was conducted by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (opens in new tab), tracked nearly 5,000 participants in Denmark aged 48 to 62 between 1986 and 2011.

The study found that men who live alone for more than seven years and go through at least two break-ups have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies. This is a worrying correlation as inflammation can have a negative effect on the body and can lead to more serious issues such as cancer, strokes, heart attacks, dementia, and artery problems.

In a bizarre twist, the increase in inflammation was only noted in male participants.  Women who also lived alone for more than seven years and also saw at least two relationships end, did not show any signs of increased inflammation. 

This phenomenon suggests that men who go through a divorce later in life are more likely to suffer from medical ramifications related to their break-ups than women. But why?

divorce

(Image credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images)

The Daily Mail (opens in new tab) reported that the senior author of the study, Professor Rikke Lund from the University of Copenhagen, said that in heterosexual couples, men are more reliant on their partners than women. 

This means that while women are more likely to have support from their social networks if they go through a divorce, often men are left without a safety blanket.

"Evidence shows that men tend to depend more on their female partners than the other way around, so are more vulnerable if they lose them," said the professor. "Men of the age we looked at tend to have smaller social networks than women, so are at a higher risk of loneliness, which might increase inflammation."

The professor added that men are also less likely to take better care of themselves than women, which obviously has a negative effect on their health.

"There is also evidence that men living alone may not look after themselves as well, and are more reluctant to consult a doctor for medical problems." He added, "this could explain the increased levels of inflammation in men following multiple break-ups and more years living alone."

Professor Lund added on a more positive note that although men in this study did not fare well after a divorce, women will typically receive support and are unlikely to encounter medical challenges.

Professor Lund said, "Women tend to have better support from friends and family following a divorce or break-up which can make a real difference to the effect of the stress on their health."

"That can range from having people to talk to about their emotions, to having someone to help them move house, and we know it makes a real difference."

The study suggests that a solid social circle, understanding how to deal with stress, and stopping stressful emotions from silently wreaking havoc on your body are all positive ways that both men and women can begin the process of going through a divorce without the stress causing even more emotional and physical damage.

Laura is a news writer for woman&home who primarily covers entertainment and celebrity news. Laura dabbles in lifestyle, royal, beauty, and fashion news, and loves to cover anything and everything to do with television and film. She is also passionate about feminism and equality and loves writing about gender issues and feminist literature.


Laura loves drinking and eating and can often be found trying to get reservations at London's trendiest restaurants. When she's not wining and dining, Laura can also be found travelling, baking, and hiking with her dog.