Looking to the future, people over 50 in Pennsylvania often anticipate two, three or even four decades of life still ahead of them. When that outlook is clouded by an unhappy marriage, many have determined that a gray divorce is the answer.

According to U.S. News & World Report, an anticipated increased life expectancy is one of the factors that has contributed to the rise in divorces in the over 50 age group, and many are finding happiness and peace from the decision to become single and independent of a former spouse. However, there are health risks that are common for divorcing older adults.

Psychological health

Research indicates that people who divorce later in life often suffer from elevated depressive symptoms, anxiety and chronic stress. Spouses may experience isolation when they lose friend groups or become alienated from family members, which increases the risk for mental health decline.

Physical health

Mental health and related behaviors often contribute to a decline in physical health. Common physical symptoms of psychological distress include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia

People dealing with stress, anxiety and depression often engage in behaviors such as substance abuse or overeating that cause additional health problems. Chronic stress and depression are also linked to higher risk for heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Financial health

Market Watch warns that a couple’s finances may be healthy while they are married, but it costs more for two people to live independently than it does for them to live together. Research shows that this demographic suffers greater financial insecurity than their peers who are married or widowed.

People divorcing over 50, and particularly those who plan to retire soon, should take a realistic look at their income, retirement and other assets and determine a viable financial plan.