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How divorce can affect men’s health

By The Health News Team | January 23, 2023
Sad man looking out the window

While the first months of the new year usually include resolutions meant to make a person’s life better, the majority of divorces in the U.S. take place during the same time — with roughly 950,000 divorces estimated to occur each year. And according to one study, divorce can be very bad for a man’s health.

Researchers found that divorce and living alone are associated with several harmful health outcomes, especially for men. Their findings suggest a strong association between divorce and living alone and low-grade inflammation in middle-aged men, but not women. Inflammation can lead to risk of early death, heart attacks and dementia.

“A divorced man is more likely to have worse physical and mental health after a divorce than their former spouse,” says Dr. Muhammad Azam, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Community Medical Group. “Men are also more likely to develop feelings of hopelessness after divorce.”

Top 10 reasons for divorce

Divorce can be due to a variety of factors. One study found that couples noted the following 10 major reasons for divorce:

  • Lack of commitment

  • Infidelity or extramarital affairs

  • Too much conflict and arguing

  • Marrying too young

  • Financial problems

  • Substance abuse

  • Domestic violence

  • Health problems

  • Lack of support from family

  • Religious differences

Symptoms of divorce

Regardless of the reason, though, Dr. Azam says that men deal with many issues stemming from divorce, including financial issues, the loss of a relationship and the loss of their identity. Unless they seek support, they can feel overwhelmed, and the excessive stress can cause health issues.

Common symptoms a man might experience before and during a divorce include insomnia, fatigue and irritability.

“This can lead to poor eating and lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Azam. “Weight and blood pressure can increase, and lipid and glucose levels can elevate. Additionally, emotional symptoms can then proceed to alcohol, cigarette and drug use along with depression, acting out and even thoughts of suicide.”

Preventing the harmful health effects of divorce

Men can prevent or reduce many of these negative responses to divorce through planning and seeking support. Start by looking at finances, creating a plan for moving out, and improving your exercise program. It is also crucial to maintain connection with other family members and friends.

“Consider incorporating yoga, meditation and other mindfulness practices and try to have an amicable divorce,” Dr. Azam says. “It is also important to control alcohol, cigarette and drug use.”

What’s more, it is crucial to remember that your primary care doctor can help you during this difficult time. “Your doctor can help counsel you and provide referrals to specialists who can be valuable in keeping you emotionally and physically healthy before, during and after your divorce,” Dr. Azam says.

If you or a loved one is in crisis, call 911 or the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which is available 24 hours a day by calling or texting 988 from anywhere in the country.

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