Divorce takes a harder mental-health toll on younger couples, who may be less equipped to cope, than those who experience a marital breakup later in life, new research finds.
The study -- reported by Michigan State University sociologist Hui Liu in the journal Social Science & Medicine -- found older couples appear to have more skills to deal with the stress of divorce than the very young.
“It’s clear to me that we need more social and family support for the younger divorced groups,” said Liu, in a university release on the study’s findings. “This could include divorce counseling to help people handle the stress, or offering marital therapy or prevention programs to maintain marital satisfaction.”
Liu analyzed the self-reported health of 1,282 participants in Americans’ Changing Lives, a long-term national survey. She measured the gap in health status between those who remained married during the 15-year study period and those who transitioned from marriage to divorce, at certain ages and generations.
Liu found the gap was wider at younger ages. People born in the 1950s who got divorced between the ages of 35 and 41 reported more health problems in relation to their continuously married counterparts than those who got divorced in the 44 to 50 age range.
From a generational perspective, the negative health impact was stronger for baby boomers than it was for older generations – a finding that surprised Liu.
“I would have expected divorce to carry less stress for the younger generation, since divorce is more prevalent for them,” she said.
Liu said this may be because the pressure to marry and stay married was stronger for older generations, and so those who did divorce may have been among the most unhappily married – and thus felt a certain degree of relief when they did divorce.