April 20, 2015. Divorce is a major life stressor that can have economic, emotional, and physical health consequences. However, the cumulative association between divorce and risks for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) is unknown. This study investigated the association between lifetime exposure to divorce and the incidence of AMI in US adults.
A new study in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes throws another health impact into the marital mix: risk of heart attack (or acute myocardial infarction — MI). Researchers found that divorced men and women both had significantly higher risks of heart attack than their continuously married (neither divorced nor widowed) peers. Drawing on data collected over nearly two decades in the ongoing Health and Retirement Study, researchers were able to investigate the cumulative health effects of marriage and divorce. All told, the study included interviews with almost 16,000 married, widowed, and divorced participants aged 45 to 80. Between 1992 and 2010, each participant was interviewed six times on a wide range of topics.
The results indicate that a history of divorce impacts the risk of heart attack, with effects varying by gender. Women who had divorced at least once were 24% more likely to experience an MI than those who had been continuously married; those divorced two or more times saw their risk increase to 77%. To put this in perspective, the latter number is comparable to risk associated with established factors like high blood pressure and diabetes. Men, on the other hand, only saw an escalated risk when divorced two or more times (increased to 30%).