United Kingdom

Marriage breakdown is even worse for you than previously thought, new study reveals

Divorce is even worse for physical and mental health than previously thought, a study reveals.

And the more a couple argue before breaking up, the worse their mental health is later on, researchers found.

Previous studies have documented the long-term damage of a messy divorce. But the latest research is the first to examine health immediately after a quick break-up.

Danish researchers found that the mental and physical health of recent divorcees was poor. 

They said understanding the effects of breaking up could help psychologists to design ways for divorcees to get back on their feet – and avoid long-term repercussions.

Divorce is often a protracted process. The UK requires a separation period of two years before a couple can apply.

Professor Gert Hald, of the University of Copenhagen, said: 'Previous studies have not investigated the effects of divorce without extensive separation periods occurring before the divorce. We were able to study divorcees who had been granted a so-called 'immediate' divorce in Denmark and on average, these divorcees obtained a divorce within five days of filing for it.'

Separate figures show that the number of individuals representing themselves in UK courtroom divorce disputes has soared from 35 per cent to 57 per cent in the past five years [File photo]

That allowed Professor Hald and his team to obtain 'real-time' data on 1,856 very recent divorcees, who completed questionnaires about their background, health and their divorce.

The university's Dr Soren Sander said: 'The mental and physical health of divorcees was significantly worse than the comparative background population immediately following divorce.'

The researchers also found that for men, earning more and being younger predicted better physical health. Having more children, a new partner and more previous divorces were associated with better mental health.

Among women, higher pay, a new partner and fewer previous divorces were associated with better physical health. Being the one who initiated the divorce also predicted better mental health.

Dr Sander said: 'Across gender, higher levels of divorce conflict were found to predict worse mental health.' The team said targeted interventions early in the divorce process may be key to helping a couple with their health.

Professor Hald added that 'evidence-based interventions' were needed to help new divorcees, which could include face-to-face sessions. He said this could save money with better workplace productivity and fewer sick days, as well as less pressure on healthcare.

Separate figures show that the number of individuals representing themselves in UK courtroom divorce disputes has soared from 35 per cent to 57 per cent in the past five years.

The jump in 'DIY divorces' means there are now about 58,000 cases per year in which couples do not use lawyers, according to research reported in The Times. Campaigners have called for more legal aid for divorcees.

Previous studies have documented the long-term damage of a messy divorce. But the latest research is the first to examine health immediately after a quick break-up [File photo]

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