We often assume that older married people who have been together for a long time will stay that way. As optimistic as that viewpoint is, it’s simply not true. The rate of divorce for people older than 50 has doubled since 1990. Though younger people still divorce more often, the frequency of divorce has shot up in older demographics.
You may have heard this phenomenon referred to as “gray divorce.” Experts have been researching gray divorce for a while and say that expectations around marriage have changed in the last few years, which may be the reason for the rise. What you may not know is how a gray divorce can affect a person’s overall health. If you’re in this age category and considering divorce here in Georgia, this information can be helpful.
A gray divorce has psychological and physical effects
Some of the effects on a person undergoing a divorce are psychological. Depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder are not uncommon for divorced people. When you add all these stressors onto an older person, he or she may not be able to cope as well as someone younger who is at otherwise-optimum health.
Psychological conditions often directly tie to a rise in physical problems. People who experience depression or considerable stress may suffer from heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and more. Once again, a person’s advanced age might exacerbate the effects of disease.
Symptoms can mean more
A divorce often leads to psychological distress, which might never manifest into a diagnosed physical or psychological condition. However, the symptoms that accompany psychological distress can negatively affect a person’s health. These include fatigue, mood swings, changes in appetite, insomnia and others. Symptoms like these may cause a person to stop exercising, forget to eat or even engage in high-risk behavior.
People suffering from psychological distress may even isolate themselves from others, which can also affect their health. Men in particular, who often benefited from their wives’ social circle, are vulnerable to isolation after divorce. They may even have difficulty maintaining relationships with their kids if their wives were the primary caregiver during marriage. Isolation can cause declines in a person’s mental health, increase instances of chronic disease and even cause someone to die sooner.
How to help yourself
There are ways to counteract the health effects of a gray divorce. Increasing your social circle and ensuring that you get out and see people is key to combating isolation. Exercise can help with mental clarity and increase physical stamina. Though consuming alcohol is tempting, overindulging can negatively impact health. Some experts even recommend that seniors going through divorce adopt a pet for companionship and an excuse to get exercise. Finally, seeing a doctor for any physical problems or a therapist for any psychological conditions is always a good idea.
No matter your age when you divorce, it is imperative that you monitor your health. Older people may have an increased risk of health problems and the process of divorce may hit them a bit harder than someone younger. The important thing is knowing that it is okay to ask for help when you need it and that you are not alone.