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Health scars from divorce "permanent"

People who are widowed or get a divorce are more likely to suffer from ill health even after they remarry, a study has shown.

However, those who do not remarry are most in danger of poor health, according to a scientific study of 8,652 people aged 51 to 61, more than 95% of whom were or had been married.

Rates of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer were 20% higher for people who were divorced or widowed than among those who were continuously married. It was also 23% more likely for divorcees and widowers to suffer disabilities that affected their mobility.

Depression was more common among people who had been divorced or widowed and had not remarried, according to the findings published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour.

Professor Linda Waite, from the University of Chicago, said that previous studies have shown that people enter adulthood with a particular "stock" of health based on genetics and other factors.

"Each person's experience of marital gain and loss affect this stock of health," she added. "For example, the transition to marriage tends to bring an immediate health benefit, in that it improves health behaviours for men and financial well-being for women."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Journal of Health and Social Behaviour