Divorce Is Bad For Adults And Other Living Things

Here's a downer from "The Science Times" : Seems divorce takes a major toll on your health. But so does a bad marriage. Oh, but married people are still healthier than single ones. So what's a girl to do?

As Tara Parker-Pope writes in today's Times,

New research shows that when married people become single again, whether by divorce or a spouse's death, they experience much more than an emotional loss. Often they suffer a decline in physical health from which they never fully recover, even if they remarry.

The stats, which come from a nationwide study of folks in their 50s and 60 and a series of related experiments, detailed in the piece, suggest that the stress of such situations can actually affect a person's cellular level and immune system.

When the author asked for anecdotal responses from readers, she got a range. Wrote "Shelley,"

Duh. Major emotional trauma damages health. Losing a spouse, losing a parent, losing a child, losing a job (and related health insurance.) I can't believe with health care in the state it is, we're wasting money on this kind of research.

But others had a more pragmatic take: Says "Jack", "At first the divorce took a toll, but the prospect of dating made me get in better physical shape. I joined a local running group, got in shape, and made new friends!" And added "S.K.," "Considering what the stress of a bad marriage is doing to my health, I'll take my chances with divorce." But the last word should probably go to the unhelpful contributor who commented only, "Marriage sucks and then you die!"

Divorce and death are major stresses (The Onion's editorial, "The Divorce Was Unfortunate, But I'm Glad We Handled It Like Total Animals" is all-too-real for many to be funny) and it seems pretty difficult to emerge from either situation unscathed. But isn't it one of the disconnects of being a human being that our physical interests are often in direct opposition of the wants and needs of our brains? In short, the body, for all its sophistication, doesn't want us to live life too richly: if it had its way, we'd subsist on a minimally caloric diet of nuts, seeds, lean protein and water, spend no time sitting at a computer, and start reproducing in childhood. The best most of us can hope for is an uneasy detante in which our emotions act as unreliable double-agent. (And can you guess who has two thumbs and took Biology for poets?) I guess my point is just this: sometimes the glut of information about the unavoidable effects of living on the body can be disheartening, and make one feel like we're in the grip of forces so large there's no point to anything. To a degree, that's true, and a certain measure of contentment probably arises from surrendering a bit of control. But to quote a doctor quoted in Laurie Colwin's peerless essay "Red Peppers," "it's silly to do anything for reasons of health." And applying any such thoughts to the emotional maelstrom of loss and divorce - quite stressful enough, thanks, without considering the toll it's taking on your cell count - seems like a good place to apply the maxim.

Divorce, It Seems, Can Make You Ill
[NY Times]

When Married People Become Single Again
[NY Times]

The Divorce Was Unfortunate, But I'm Glad We Handled It Like Total Animals
[The Onion]