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Divorce linked to lifestyle changes, early death

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Divorced people are at a higher risk for early deaths — but science hasn’t really understood why marital status and mortality were related until recently.

It turns out that there may be a simple underlying cause for the connection: behavioral and lifestyle changes after divorce. In specific, divorced people are more likely to smoke and engage in less physical activity than their married counterparts.

In a study that involved both married and unmarried participants over the course of more than a decade, researchers examined the subjects’ self-reported levels of personal satisfaction, smoking habits and exercise habits. Over time, they discovered that married participants were 46 percent less likely to die than those participants who divorced.

They also discovered that the divorced participants were generally less satisfied with their lives. In turn, they tended to smoke more and exercise less often. While researchers are still speculating why the three issues seem related, one possibility is simply that the divorced participants didn’t feel particularly accountable for their behavior to anyone else significant. That led to poorer life choices — which created a domino-like effect on their habits and health.

Additional research is planned to look into other factors, including drinking and eating habits. Scientists are also curious how remarried people and those who are widowed fair.

What does this mean for you, if you’re planning on getting a divorce any time soon (or have already done so)? The best advice science can give is to stay conscious of your habits and don’t let stress or dissatisfaction lead you to smoke.

In addition, you may want to pick up an exercise routine or reinvest in an old one — partly as a way of keeping yourself active and reducing stress and partly to avoid falling into the trap other divorced people sometimes find themselves in.

Keep in mind that personal satisfaction, not marital status, is really the key to a happier future!

Source: Science Daily, “Smoking, lack of exercise linked to early death after divorce,” University of Arizona, May 29, 2018