April 14th, 2015

Study Adds to Evidence Linking Divorce and MI

A new study shows that after a divorce, people have an increased lifetime risk for myocardial infarction. Although previous studies have found that MIs occur more frequently in people who are divorced, this is the first study to prospectively examine the lifetime relationship between divorce and MI.

In a paper published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, Duke University researchers analyzed data from a nationally representative cohort of 16,000 adults who were followed from 1992 to 2010. The increased risk for MI among the divorced was not explained by other social, psychological, or physiological factors that have been shown to influence  MI.

“Contrary to expectations and existing literature, we found that losses of income and health insurance, and increases in depressive symptoms, alcohol use, and smoking, did not account for the excess risks attributable to a history of divorce in men and women,” the authors wrote. “We suspect that the acute and chronic stress associated with divorce may have played an important role in our findings for both sexes.”

The strength of the association was similar to that of established risk factors like smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The findings suggest that the strength of the link between MI and divorce is comparable to the link with job loss and unemployment.

The findings were different for men and women. Men who divorced and remarried did not have an increased MI risk, but remarried women had an increased risk comparable with women who remained divorced. 

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