University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #FAR4030

Health Effects of Divorce Vary across Age and Generation1

Carol Church2

Figure 1. 
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Researchers have long known that married people tend to be healthier. It’s generally thought that marriage provides support that promotes good health and discourages bad habits, like smoking.

Meanwhile, divorce is known for the toll it can take on personal health. But how much do these effects vary from person to person? New research in the journal Social Science and Medicine suggest that how old people are when they divorce, and even what generation they’re from, may play a role (Liu, 2012).

Between 1986 and 2001, researchers followed about 1300 people who had been born between 1900 and 1960, tracking their marital status and self-rated health. They discovered that when divorce did occur it had more impact on the health of those who were younger at the time; those who split up when they were over 40 weren’t as affected. What’s more, the consequences of divorce varied by generation, with baby boomers reporting more health-related effects than those from earlier generations. These results might seem surprising, given that divorce is less common and more stigmatized in these older groups. But the researchers suggest that when people in older generations did divorce, the marriage was probably very dysfunctional, so it may have been a less negative event (Liu, 2012).

Given these results, the author suggests that “more social and family support” (ScienceDaily, 2012) may be needed for those who divorce at younger ages. The findings also remind us of the role of generational differences—something to keep an eye on as national views on marriage continue to change (Liu, 2012).

Listening, learning, and living together: it’s the science of life. “Family Album” is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension and the UF Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. If you’d like to learn more, please visit our website at, or find Family Album Radio on Facebook.

To listen to the radio broadcast:


Liu, H. (2012). Marital dissolution and self-rated health: Age trajectories and birth-cohort variations. Social Science and Medicine. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.037.

ScienceDaily. (2012). Divorce hurts health more at earlier ages. Retrieved from



This document is FAR4030, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date March 2, 2012, as program 1889. Published on EDIS March 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.