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Marriage break up worse for you than previously thought, says study

Marriage and Family
4 December 2020
Stress 2

A new report published earlier this week has highlighted the devastating impact of divorce on a person’s physical and mental health.

A total of 1,856 divorced couples were interviewed as part of the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen.

First study to exam­ine imme­di­ate after­math of divorce

There are many studies documenting the long-term effects of divorce, but this is the first study to assess the psychological and physical impact on divorcees in the immediate aftermath of a break up:

'Previous studies have not investigated the effects of divorce without extensive separation periods occurring before the divorce. We were able to study divorcees who had been granted a so-called 'immediate' divorce in Denmark and on average, these divorcees obtained a divorce within five days of filing for it.'
Professor Gert Hald University of Copenhagen

Divorce harms emo­tion­al and phys­ic­al health

The report suggests divorce is far worse for people’s mental health than was previously thought, especially when there has not been a long period of separation before the divorce.

The researchers found that divorce caused a significant impact on the mental and physical health of recent divorcees.

They found that the health of divorcees was much worse than that of the general population in Denmark:

The mental and physical health of divorcees was significantly worse than the comparative background population immediately following divorce.
Dr Soren Sander University of Copenhagen

They argue that targeted interventions are needed earlier on in the divorce progress to help couples mitigate the impact to their health.

CARE’s View

Some might argue that the negative impact of divorce is more reason to encourage couples not to marry in the first place, and rather to co-habit.

However, this negates the significant benefits of marriage in contributing to a couple's happiness, through a clear understanding of reciprocal commitment.

What this research also demonstrates is that marriage is a unique and special union that binds people together in a way no mere 'legal' union can, which is why it has such a significant impact when it is severed. It follows that it should therefore be upheld and protected even more in law.

Enabling couples to access speedier divorce may seem a 'solution' in the short term, but it does not allow the time needed for any interventions to occur — particularly those that might save the relationship.

The Government must do more to protect marriage and families, and to ensure that every intervention is made before divorce is considered. This is why, during the recent debate on the Government's No-Fault Divorce Bill, CARE worked with Parliamentarians to call on the Government to provide better funding for relationship intervention and counselling.

Sadly, the Government went ahead with their plans to introduce no-fault divorce, and the Bill became law. The impact on individuals as they are rushed through the divorce process remains to be seen, but what this evidence shows is that making divorce quicker does not lessen its impact on a couple's mental and physical health, and more must be done to help them long before this stage is reached.

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Marriage and Family

Strong families are foundational to a healthy society. Marriages too are vital, representing the gold standard of commitment. CARE is committed to upholding both.

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