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Understanding the health-related impact of gray divorce

Choosing to untie the knot can have a serious health-related impact on anyone in Kentucky regardless of age. This is why it ranks as the number two stressor on a scale that predicts what life events are most likely to result in a stress-induced breakdown within a two-year period. For couples 50 and over, uncoupling can be even more impactful on health. What's more, while divorce rates have fallen for people 40 and under, they have doubled for older adults since 1990 - a phenomenon often referred to as "gray divorce."

Results from a landmark university study show that gray divorce is associated with an increase in depression, chronic stress, and anxiety. There have also been instances of older divorced individuals experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms that may include flashbacks of troublesome marital events such as instances of physical abuse. Depression, in particular, has been associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's disease, and an assortment of other health issues.

Divorce-induced chronic stress also puts older adults at an increased risk for developing a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and issues related to weight gain. Existing health problems may also worsen. And it's believed that appetite and sleep changes, fatigue, memory difficulties, and other symptoms of psychological distress can be harmful to older adults during and after a divorce. Increased stress can also contribute substance abuse and other risky behaviors. Isolation is another top health concern for divorced seniors. Older men may be affected more by isolation because it's usually the wife who was the social planner and the one who maintained relationships.

A late-life divorce sometimes results in financial losses, a problem more likely to affect older women ending a marriage. A family law attorney may be able to minimize financial imbalances by suggesting ways to protect retirement savings and other investments. A lawyer sometimes offers additional advice on what assets are worth fighting for and which ones may not be worth the effort to insist on keeping due to related tax liabilities and long-term expenses that could negatively affect a former spouse's financial security.

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