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5 Ways Late-Life Divorce Can Affect Your Health — and What to Do About It

Written by Halah Flynn

Years of research indicate that a lifestyle of companionship yields more positive health benefits, but those divorcing late in life are not bound by the risks of solitude — if they put forth the energy, that is. Active efforts to maintain health in the face of a divorce can curb the negative impacts of abrupt lifestyle transitions. If you’re currently in the process of ending a marriage or are divorced, check out the potential ways that divorce can affect your health — be sure to talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about any concerns.

Chronic Health: The risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer increase for divorced and widowed people by 20 percent, according to a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Attending annual physicals and check-ups for existing chronic conditions can help mitigate this risk. Make sure you talk to your medical provider about your health concerns, and stay away from lifestyle choices that can contribute to chronic conditions, like smoking, excessive drinking and eating sugary foods.

Mental health: Starting a new chapter of life on your own can yield uncertainty, which undoubtedly leads to anxiety for many older adults. Navigating major transitions that occur after a divorce — finding a new living space, establishing new financial patterns — can create a lot of stress when adjusting quickly between two very different lifestyles. Seeing a counselor regularly can help you manage changes in your mental health, practice mindfulness and establish a routine of self-care.

Weight management: Though weight fluctuation often occurs after any major transition in life, changes in weight often come after a divorce for several reasons. For one, shifts in appetite are closely linked to mental health changes, and can result in significant weight fluctuation. Furthermore, married adults are more likely to eat meals together, which keep diets regular and well-rounded. Sharing meals with a companion after divorce is an easy way to exercise self-care and consistency — both of which affect metabolism. Keep in mind that Medicare covers weight-loss counseling.

Fitness routine: Many older adults also rely on their spouse as an exercise buddy, so a parting of ways can leave one at a loss for a fitness partner. Looking into community circles for single adults is a quick way to find a friend with similar exercise interests, or even a group class at a local gym.

Social engagement: Beyond just having a fitness buddy, it’s important to make sure you still find companionship for your day-to- day activities. Seek out people who enjoy the same hobbies as you, like gardening, traveling, or playing sports. Whether it’s a caregiver, family member or friend, spending quality time with others is a pivotal aspect of self-care, and should be treated as a primary aspect of maintaining health.

While these aren’t all the ways that mid or late-life divorce can affect your health, they encompass a starting point for older adults who want to ease their transition out of a marriage. Everyone’s experience is unique, so it’s important to discuss any health or lifestyle-related choices made with a medical provider or caregiver.

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