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Study: Unhealthy behavior after divorce can shorten your life

Being in an unhappy marriage can be bad for your mental and physical health. However, if you allow yourself to fall into unhealthy habits, so can divorce. Unfortunately, this happens to too many people.

Researchers at the University of Arizona (UA) recently released a study that looks at why divorced people are at higher risk for premature death than people who stay married. The connection is traced to two key factors: smoking and lack of physical activity.

The UA researchers used data from a study in England that followed almost 5,800 people of various marital statuses over a period of years. The British researchers measured people's smoking status and lung health as well as their exercise frequency. They also asked them to self-report how satisfied they were with their lives.

The participants in the study who were divorced were more likely to be smokers and, consequently, to have poorer lung health than their married counterparts. Divorced participants were 46 percent more likely to die during the course of the study than those who remained married.

The participants who were divorced or separated also reported lower levels of "life satisfaction" than those who were married. Those who weren't satisfied with their lives also were less likely to be physically active. Lack of physical activity, like smoking, can lessen your lifespan.

The UA researchers hypothesized that people may lapse into unhealthy behaviors after a marital break-up because they no longer have a spouse around to hold them accountable. As the lead author says, "In many ways, when relationships end, we lose that important social control of our health behaviors."

Of course, ending an unhappy marriage can significantly improve a person's mental and physical health. Shedding a spouse who was argumentative, belittling or abusive can significantly improve a person's sense of well-being. Further, many newly separated and divorced people begin hitting the gym to get back into shape for the dating scene.

Just being aware when you are falling into unhealthy patterns can help you put a stop to them. Divorce attorneys are often an excellent source of referrals for psychologists, personal trainers, support groups, 12-step programs and masseuses because they have clients who've needed one or all of those things to get their lives on track after divorce.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001

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