Protecting What You Value Most

Physical and psychological effects of a gray divorce

Since 1990, divorce rates have doubled for people 50 and older, resulting in “gray” divorces. Increase in age can mean new health conditions, including stress and depression. A dissolution of marriage may make existing physical, mental and emotional ailments worse.

Divorce takes its toll on men and women no matter the age, but what are the effects on the older generation? What can people do to combat the problems that divorce inflicts on the body and mind?

Health issues

As married men and women get older and stay married longer, they may become more reliant on their spouse to help with health issues that may arise. When a divorce occurs, the help-mate is no longer there. The loss may cause depression, chronic stress or anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress symptoms.

These conditions may link to physical problems such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Weakened immune system

Isolation may be one of the biggest concerns with gray divorce. It can lead to a break in relationships with other family members, and studies link isolation to mental health decline and chronic disease.

Health protection

Older adults may use strategies to keep themselves from going through potential health issues. These may include:

  • Exercise
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Adopt a pet
  • Eat healthy
  • Avoid isolation
  • Have a supportive social network

Several experts report that divorces are not all bad. After children have left to go out on their own, moms and dad might want to feel that independence. Some couples may even stay good friends after the divorce.