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Divorce Tied to Depression in Some People

Update Date: Aug 27, 2013 02:08 PM EDT

Even though getting married and starting a new family with another person can be extremely exciting, marriage is not easy. In current society, people are generally getting married at a much later age than before. On top of later marriages, statistics reveal that more people get divorced today than they did in the past. In a new study, researchers looked at the effect of divorce and found that for some people, divorce can drastically increase the risk of depression.

"Stressful life events like divorce are associated with significant risk for prolonged emotional distress, including clinically-significant depression," the lead researcher, David Sbarra of the University of Arizona said according to the press release. Sbarra is a psychological scientist at the University. "At the same time, we know from considerable research that the experience of divorce is non-random. Some people are much greater risk for experiencing a divorce than other people."

In order to study how divorce affects people, the researchers looked at data compiled from the longitudinal, nationally representative Midlife Development in the United States Study (MIDUS). With this information, the researchers compared every individual that had separated or divorced from their partners to every individual that was still married. The comparisons were made after the researchers took into account factors tied to divorce in both sets of people.

The researchers found that divorce or separation increased the chances of a depressive episode for people with a history of depression. The data revealed that around 60 percent of people with a history of depression and were divorced experienced a depressive episode. The researchers did not find an increased likelihood for a depressive episode in people who were not divorced and in people who were divorced but did not have a history of the mental illness. They noted that around 10 percent of the divorcees with no history of depression did have a depressive episode.

"If you've never experienced a significant depression in your life and you experience a separation or divorce, your odds for becoming depressed in the future are not that large at all," Sbara said.

The researchers believe that divorce, in itself, does not increase the rates of depression. Divorce, however, might trigger underlying risks that lead to depression. The researchers hope that their findings can help clinicians screen people for depression more effectively especially if they have a history of the illness and are currently going through a separation or divorce. The study was published in Clinical Psychological Science.  

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