Divorced or widowed people are more likely to have chronic health problems than those who stayed married, a new study has found.
To determine the link between poor health and divorce or widowhood, researchers at the University of Chicago's Center on Aging examined a study of Americans interviewed in 1992, when they were ages 51 to 61. They focused on a sample of 8,652 people.
After adjusting their statistics to account for such factors as race and gender, which could skew the results, the researchers found that those with "marital loss" -- meaning losing a spouse to death or divorce -- had 20 percent more chronic health conditions than people who stayed married.
They also had 23 percent more conditions that limited their ability to get around, according to the study published by Health Day News on Monday.
People who remarried were somewhat less likely to have these problems than those who had stayed single but still more problems than those who remained married, said the study.
The study found that women and men who were recently divorced had weaker immune systems than those who had been divorced longer.
"Marital loss does seem to be a powerful force damaging health," said sociologist and study co-author Linda Waite. "And it seems to work about the same way for men and women, and for emotional well-being and physical health."
Also, she said, those who remain preoccupied with thoughts of their former spouse -- either pro or con -- had immune problems.
Married men, she said, have better prospects of surviving after surgery and live longer than unmarried men. "There's really tremendous research that shows this helps health," she said.