Brokenhearted? Divorced women more likely to suffer heart attacks, study suggests

Reuters/Susana Vera
Divorced women are more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who are happily married, experts have warned.

Women’s health is more likely than men’s to be impacted by divorce, researchers at the Duke School of Medicine found. Those who have gone through two or more divorces are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack.

The study found that women who divorced once were 24 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than women who stayed married.

Those who had multiple divorces had a 77 percent increased risk of having a heart attack, the study said. In men, there was a 10 percent increased risk after one divorce and 30 percent increase after multiple divorces.

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“Divorce is a major stressor, and we have long known that people who are divorced suffer more health consequences,” associate professor at the Duke School of Medicine Matthew Dupre said.

“But this is one of the first studies to look at the cumulative effect of divorce over a long period.

“We found that it can have a lasting imprint on people's health.”

Researchers studied the health and marital status of 15,827 people aged 45 to 80, who had been married at least once, from 1992 to 2010. Around one-third of the participants had been divorced at least once during the 18-year study.

The divorce rate in England and Wales has risen over recent years, according to the Office for National Statistics. In its latest figures, it said there were 118,140 divorces in 2012, up 0.5 percent on 2011. Overall, 42 percent of marriages are likely to end in divorce.

The study was published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association.

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The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has however called for more research before divorce is named as a trigger and factor in having a heart attack

“We have known for some time that our mental health can affect our heart health,” the BHF’s Professor Jeremy Pearson told the BBC.

“This study suggests that divorce might increase a person's risk of a heart attack.

“But the results are not definitive so further evidence would be needed before divorce could be considered a significant risk factor for causing a heart attack.”