Divorce Takes a Worse Toll on Men, Except Economically


After a marriage breakdown, women face a decline in their economic situation, while men may experience an increase in their standard of living. However, research shows that "divorce is associated with worse physical and mental health more strongly for men than for women." For example, "men are more likely than women to develop suicidality after a separation."

I was passing this article around to my group of feminist friends; one of them is a psychologist and had this to say: "The data is pretty clear when it comes to longevity and morbidity that this is true. In the case of a divorce, a woman will likely be poorer (happiness is ambiguous evidence, some are happier, some less so, but less so is usually because they are so poor) but there won't be an impact on her health or longevity . Men are richer but bad at social support. For men, if they get divorced, they basically get married again in the next 2 years or are at hugely higher risk for substance abuse, other illnesses and accidents and all cause mortality. It is worse with having a partner die. After a certain number of years of marriage (I can't recall exactly, but like 20 years), a man who does not remarry within 18 months or have an adult daughter to care for him basically dies at a catastrophically high rate (like within those 18 months).

"Women who lose men through divorce or death just live longer on average. Period. Getting rid of men is good for your health, on average, just as having women around is good for men (married men live 8 years longer on average than those who never marry, although of course there is the endogeneity problem of the kind of men who can't get a wife, but leaving that aside...) . Married women do not live longer and are less happy than unmarried women (on average).

"Married men live much longer and are happier than unmarried men. They also have a lot more sex (access issue). But the longevity data is a big deal: smoking typically costs 6 years of life and going to college buys you 12 years of life. The issue is social support. Women are good at getting and giving that, particularly among kin (mother, sister, daughter, etc) and men can't do it outside sexual relationships. They are just super bad at it. They take this as strength and perhaps it is if you have a (typically long suffering) wife. But if you don't.....well, you die sooner and are at increased risk for substance abuse and other health problems.

"So one of the biggest inabilities of human hedonic forecasting is around marriage: men don't want it and are happier, healthier, live longer and have more sex if they do it. Women desperately want it and are less happy, less healthy and live slightly less long if they have it. And if that is not an argument for the power of reproductive pull, I don't know what is."

I told her she'd blown my mind and I'd have to reboot it before responding! How crazy that men are very marriage-shy but benefit so much from it. While women, on the other hand, really want to get married but do not benefit from marriage as much as men, and may even suffer as a result.

This may explain another long-standing finding of researchers--that it is very difficult in a society where women have choice in marriage, to get women to marry "down." They'd rather remain single. I always found this a bit strange, but if it is true that men benefit more from marriage than women, maybe that tendency is more understandable.