The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Spring
2016

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Topic: Gray Divorce

The News Story: Surviving Divorce After 50

The New Research: The Health Issues of Unmarried Baby-Boomer Women

 

The News Story: Surviving Divorce After 50

A record number of adults are divorcing later in life—the so-called “gray divorce” revolution. A recent CNBC piece counsels such divorcées how to handle splitting up without going broke.

Among the advice is to decide whether or not you can live off of what remains to you after the divorce. (What happens if you can’t? The story doesn’t say.) In addition, “educate yourself on the basics” of day-to-day finances, and change your beneficiaries. Also, “consider selling the house”: according to financial planner Crystal Alford-Cooper, “One of the biggest challenges we face is divorcees who tend to be female who have been homemakers or have earned less. . . . A large percentage of women can’t afford to stay in their homes.”

As if that weren’t enough, research indicates that “a large percentage of women” face problems more than financial when they find themselves alone. But would the media (or the feminist establishment) consider counseling such women to do their best to remain married, instead of trying to ameliorate the negative consequences of a divorce?

Of course not.

(Sources: Katie Young, “Surviving Divorce After 50,” CNBC, March 2, 2017.)

 

The New Research: The Health Issues of Unmarried Baby-Boomer Women

Fully aware of the national retreat from marriage in recent decades, the authors of a new study set out to determine whether new marital patterns had changed the relationship between wedlock and health. To answer this question, the researchers pore over data collected from 4,574 women born between 1933 and 1942 and from 2,098 women born between 1947 and 1957. With these data, the researchers gauge the relationship between these women’s marital status and their vulnerability to chronic diseases and functional limitations. Their findings are hardly reassuring.

The overall pattern that the researchers limn in the data is quite clear: “being currently married was associated with fewer functional limitations and risk of several chronic diseases compared to being divorced/separated, widowed, and never married.” What is more, the pattern emerges in both of the generational samples: “In both cohorts,” the researchers remark, “marriage was associated with lower disease risk and fewer functional limitations.”

The researchers find that “all types of non-married status were significantly associated with higher levels of functional limitations compared to the married women.” Similarly, the researchers found that marital status predicted the likelihood of the chronic diseases of hypertension, diabetes, lung disease, and arthritis. For instance, the researchers find that, “compared to married women, those who were divorced or separated were 31% more likely to have Hypertension (p < .01) . . . and those who were never married were 80% more likely to have Hypertension (p < .001).” Among the unmarried women in the study, the divorced/separated group manifested a more consistent vulnerability to chronic diseases than did the never-married group.

Understandably, the authors of this new study suggest that the relationship between marriage and marital status is a matter that their colleagues will want “to track in later members of the Baby Boom cohort, when higher rates of divorce and remaining single are even more common.”

Marriage has never counted for much among the progressives who have so decisively shaped American culture, but this new study gives those who truly care about women’s well-being reason to hope for a national reversal of the troubling retreat from wedlock. 

(Source: Bryce Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research,” The Family in America 30.1 [Winter 2016] Study: Nicky J. Newton et al., “Cohort Differences in the Marriage-Health Relationship for Midlife Women,” Social Science and Medicine 116 [2014]: 64-72.)