Elizabeth Overstreet, BlackDoctor.org Contributor
They say it’s cheaper to keep her (or him!), but that isn’t the only reason to reconsider getting a divorce. The cost of good health and peace of mind is priceless, and research shows going through divorce can wreak havoc on your health in serious ways.
Dramatic Weight Loss or Gain
Drastic weight fluctuations are common during or after divorce. Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and science at the University of California, Los Angeles, stated in a CBS report that people might let go of eating a balanced diet and other healthy habits after a marriage ends. When I went through my divorce, I had little or no appetite. I lost a good deal of weight because I just didn’t have a desire to eat. Others may experience the opposite. Food may be a source of comfort because it may temporarily make you happy, while adding on pounds and increasing the risk for chronic disease. Either extreme is unhealthy. Be aware of your tendency to eat little or nothing at all or too much.
Not surprisingly, divorce is cited as the second most stressful life event (runner up to losing a spouse because of death). You may feel alone and that there is not anyone to protect you in the world. Everything you imagined would be a part of your future no longer exists. You start to feel uncertain and insecure about who you are and where you are heading because you are used to navigating life with your mate. If you have children, this can make it even more challenging. Your living situation may change. You may have to negotiate visitation and financial issues which you used to do along with your spouse. According to the American Psychological Association, untreated anxiety can grow into frequent panic attacks, depression and even substance abuse.
Divorce can literally lead to a broken heart. In one study from Duke University, researchers found that heart attack risk was higher for those who had gotten divorced during a 20 year period than those who remained married during that time. Linda Waite, lead researcher in a University of Chicago study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, found that people who are divorced are 20 percent more likely to have chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer than married folks.
Metabolic syndrome, the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other chronic health issues, can occur. These risk factors include: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and excess weight around the stomach. Compared to happily married women, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who divorced, were widowed, or in unhappy marriages were more likely to develop this disorder.
Weakened Immune System
When you’re fighting with the stresses of life – like during or after a divorce – your body isn’t able to fight off disease as well as it should. Not only can stress weaken your immune system, but one Ohio State University study showed loneliness has the same effect.
Divorce can be tough mentally, emotionally, financially and physically. Though it may be easier said than done, experts suggest getting regular exercise, eating healthy meals (even when you’ve lost your appetite), spending time with loved ones and talking to a professional therapist to help support you through this major life transition and preserve your health.