Divorce and death

A meta-analysis and research agenda for clinical, social, and health psychology

David A Sbarra, Rita W. Law, Robert M. Portley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

84 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Divorce is a relatively common stressful life event that is purported to increase risk for all-cause mortality. One problem in the literature on divorce and health is that it is fragmented and spread across many disciplines; most prospective studies of mortality are based in epidemiology and sociology, whereas most mechanistic studies are based in psychology. This review integrates research on divorce and death via meta-analysis and outlines a research agenda for better understanding the potential mechanisms linking marital dissolution and risk for all-cause mortality. Random effects meta-analysis with a sample of 32 prospective studies (involving more than 6.5 million people, 160,000 deaths, and over 755,000 divorces in 11 different countries) revealed a significant increase in risk for early death among separated/divorced adults in comparison to their married counterparts. Men and younger adults evidenced significantly greater risk for early death following marital separation/divorce than did women and older adults. Quantification of the overall effect size linking marital separation/divorce to risk for early death reveals a number of important research questions, and this article discusses what remains to be learned about four plausible mechanisms of action: social selection, resource disruptions, changes in health behaviors, and chronic psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)454-474
Number of pages21
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Volume6
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2011

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Behavioral Medicine
Clinical Psychology
Social Psychology
Divorce
Meta-Analysis
Research
Mortality
Prospective Studies
Psychology
Sociology
Health Behavior
Young Adult
Epidemiology
Health

Keywords

  • death
  • divorce
  • epidemiology
  • marital separation
  • mechanisms
  • meta-analysis
  • mortality
  • public health
  • risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

Divorce and death : A meta-analysis and research agenda for clinical, social, and health psychology. / Sbarra, David A; Law, Rita W.; Portley, Robert M.

In: Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 6, No. 5, 09.2011, p. 454-474.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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