From amicable and smooth to traumatizing and drawn-out, divorce brings big changes for spouses and families. Scientists and other interested parties speculate whether most people are psychologically resilient and fare quite well following divorce, or maintain that divorce "is associated with long-term decreases in life satisfaction, heightened risk for a range of illnesses...and even early death." How does divorce really affect an individual's health and well-being? David Sbarra and his colleagues consider both perspectives correct.They present new findings that explain why some divorcees do well and others suffer.
In a recent review article, Sbarra found that about 15 to 20 percent of people who divorce do quite poorly. When those people are averaged with those that do well following divorce, it appears that getting divorced is a risk factor for bad outcomes. The team is careful to note that correlation may not equal causation: When assessing the implications of divorce, there are always alternative explanations because control groups cannot be assigned to get married, get divorced, or remain single. Those who do poorly following divorce may have done equally poorly—if not worse—by remaining married.
That said, here are 5 critical factors that determine why someone does poorly after divorce:
Sbarra, D. A., Hasselmo, K., & Bourassa, K. J. (2015). Divorce and health: Beyond individual differences. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 109-113.
[Note: For more about the health and well-being implications of staying single vs. marrying, check out Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong.]