Divorce is bad

Divorce can break women’s hearts more than men’s, according to one study that shows women who develop cardiovascular disease in their midlife are more likely to die of the disease than men.

The study was conducted by Zhenmei Zhang, an assistant sociology professor at the University, who presented her findings to about two dozen people at the Union yesterday.

Women became more susceptible to heart disease than men later in life because of gender differences, Zhang said.

While younger men have a much higher rate of contracting the disease than women, menopause causes women’s chances of contracting the disease to shoot up.

And divorce causes higher stress in women than men, raising their susceptibility.

“Women suffer a greater economic loss in a divorce,” Zhang said, adding that they also have “more vivid and detailed memories of marital problems” than men do.

The findings suggest greater research is needed into heart disease in women.

“When you look at other studies, all the data is on men,” Zhang said. “We really need to put more emphasis on diagnosing and treating women.”

The study also reinforced findings that people who are divorced, remarried or widowed have a higher death rate from heart disease than couples who stay married.

Zhang gave three possible reasons why those in continuous marriages suffer more infrequently.

One theory, called the Protection Hypothesis, says married couples stay healthier because they take care of each other.

Another theory is that stress caused by marital loss heightens the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The third possibility suggests that healthier people are more likely to get married than people in poor health.

This third hypothesis may have skewed the study’s data, Zhang admits in the report.

Other possible caveats include marital quality possibly changing for people who remarry, and an especially small sample was used for widowed men and divorced men.

The study focused on adults aged 51 to 60 and followed them for eight years, from 1992 to 2000, to see if any of them were diagnosed with heart disease.

It used a publicly available data set collected by the University of Michigan.

What the study found

Younger men and women get heart disease less often when they’re continuously married

Men in their midlife are equally likely to get heart disease whether they’re continuously married or not

Women in their midlife are more likely to get heart disease if they’re divorced, remarried or widowed

People who never marry are about as likely to get heart disease as continuously married couples