It is becoming more common to see older adults in divorce court. As the stigmas against divorce fade away, people no longer feel as if they must stay in a marriage that is no longer working. Divorcing later in life can be challenging because it has been so long since the spouses were single, not to mention how entwined their lives are.
Due to these and other issues common to later-in-life divorce, it often affects people’s physical health in addition to the emotional trauma they experience. According to U.S. News and World Report, divorce can take a toll on a person’s health at any age, but the outcomes are often worse for older adults.
Physical health issues
The risk for many health conditions increases with age, so many people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are much more likely to have issues such as diabetes or heart conditions. The emotional and mental stress of divorce can aggravate these types of health problems by prompting unhealthy behaviors.
For example, someone may cope with stress by engaging in impulsive actions, overeating or turning to alcohol. Insomnia is also common and may lead to extreme fatigue, muscle aches, loss of energy and difficulty with focus. For someone with high blood pressure, these factors could have dangerous health outcomes.
Mental health issues
Mental health is likely to suffer during any divorce. People often experience depression and anxiety at the end of their relationship, which can result in a lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy, mood swings and feelings of hopelessness. This can lead them to neglect self-care, avoiding exercise and becoming sedentary. They may also engage in dangerous behaviors such as failing to take needed medications.
People suffering from depression or anxiety may also self-isolate, withdrawing from friends and family who would have checked on them to make sure they eat right, take medications and get out of the house occasionally.