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More Than Just a Broken Heart: 5 Ways Divorce Affects Your Health

As if divorce wasn’t hard enough, the medical community is discovering new and surprising ways divorce negatively impacts health.

A 2009 University of Chicago study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that divorced people suffered more long-term physical health problems than those who’ve been married once and have stayed married. Study results also suggested that remarriage was unable to heal the physical damage of divorce.

And while emotional health undoubtedly suffers in the event of divorce, sociologist and study co-author Linda J. Waite, PhD told WebMD, “Mental health seems to be much more responsive to your current state, but if you ignore your physical health by not exercising, eating right, or seeing the doctor when you are sick, that can have a lasting impact. And that is what people tend to do when they lose a marriage to divorce or death.”

With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce according to the National Institutes of Health, it’s important that to recognize and take preventative measures against the known physical consequences of divorce.

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  • A weakened immune system 1 of 5
    A weakened immune system
    Psychology Today suggests divorce causes two distinct types of chronic stressors, "known" and "unknown". Known stressors include having to start over, decisions involving living arrangements, and changes in lifestyle. Unknown stressors involve uncertainty over the divorce settlement, how you'll make do, and the lasting impact of divorce on your children. These chronic stressors are responsible for weakening the immune system in times of physical and emotional vulnerability, putting our bodies at an increased risk for illness and disease.
    Image credit: Shutterstock
  • Weight gain 2 of 5
    Weight gain
    According to ABC news, divorce grief and subsequent depression can lead to substantial weight changes. While many people turn to food for comfort, others stop eating altogether. Dramatic weight changes are hard on the body and need to be closely monitored.
    Image credit: Shutterstock
  • Chronic health issues 3 of 5
    Chronic health issues
    CNN Health reports that a University of Chicago study found that divorced and widowed people faced 20 percent more chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer than their married counterparts.
    Image credit: Shutterstock
  • Insomnia 4 of 5
    Insomnia
    SHAPE advises that "secondary insomnia" (the medical term for the inability to sleep due to stress surrounding a particular life event) can have a negative and lasting impact. Talk to your doctor about changes in your sleeping patterns.
    Image credit: Shutterstock
  • Mobility issues 5 of 5
    Mobility issues
    According to WebMD, research suggests divorcees are 23 percent more likely to have mobility problems, such as difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances.
    Image credit: Shutterstock

For more surprising ways divorce impacts your health and what you can do about them, visit SHAPE.

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