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How marriage and divorce may affect women’s health after age 50

Most research on the relationship between marriage and health indicates that divorce can be detrimental to women’s well-being. However, a study on the effects of marital transitions on women’s health after age 50 suggests otherwise.

The Study

The study collected data on over 79,000 women aged 50-79 over the course of three years, according to Researchers tracked health and lifestyle factors such as weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, alcohol and tobacco use, diet, and exercise habits. Participants were then divided into three groups — those who married or entered a long-term relationship, those who divorced, and those whose marital status remained unchanged throughout the study.

Late-Life Marital Transitions and Behaviors Impacting Women’s Health

While women typically gain weight later in life, researchers noted that those who got married during the three-year period gained about two pounds more than their single counterparts, according to Medical Xpress. These women likely gained more weight because couples tend to consume larger portions when they eat together.

Married and single women reported lower diastolic blood pressure, but the decrease was greater for the unmarried group.

Women who divorced during the study lost modest amounts of weight and were more physically active than participants who were married. Though all groups made progressively better food choices during the study, divorced women showed the most marked improvement in dietary habits, suggesting that they were making conscious decisions to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The report offers new perspectives on how marital transitions affect post-menopausal women. Following divorce, older women may actually experience health benefits. The study controlled for participants’ self-reported emotional well-being, and the weight loss among women who were divorced or separated could not be attributed to depression. Instead, they seemed focused on achieving positive outcomes despite difficult circumstances. If you find yourself on the threshold of a marital breakup, you can use this time to focus on your health and taking care of yourself.

The findings of the reasearch were published in the Journal of Women’s Health.