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Divorce for older adults increases, but so can health problems

Divorce for older adults increases, but so can health problems

In 2012, a study found a surge in divorce among adults who were 50 and older. This age group was divorcing at twice the 1990 rate. Dubbed “gray divorce”, researchers say the phenomenon has not slowed, and they have identified several factors that may contribute. Expectations for what marriage can offer have risen, and women are less dependent on men financially than in previous generations and thus more likely to leave their marriages. Longer life spans also may mean people are less willing to remain in an unsatisfying marriage.

However, older adults should also be aware of the risks associated with divorce in this age group. Those who are already losing friends to relocation or death may find social ties further weakened after a divorce, particularly men, who generally participate less than women in keeping those ties strong during their marriage. The long-term stress of a divorce can lead to health problems or worsen existing ones. Some people may cope poorly with depression and anxiety and turn to alcohol or overeating.

Making an effort to leave the house daily and joining social groups can help. Pets can provide companionship for some. People should see a doctor about any physical symptoms to make sure they do not have other causes, and they may want to consult a therapist for emotional support.

There are a number of issues adults in this age group might be more likely to face. They may still have older children at home who are headed for college, and while child support obligations may end when the children are no longer minors, parents might want an agreement about how much each will contribute toward their education. They might have complex investments. If one owns a business, a business valuation may be necessary prior to negotiations about property division.