A study on the effect of divorce or separation conducted by lecturers from the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Valencia reveals that people who do not live with a partner have poorer health than those who cohabit with a spouse or unmarried partner. The findings of this study, led by Carles Simó-Noguera, have just been published in the Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas, edited by the Spanish Sociological Research Centre (CIS).

Research, based on the European Health Survey 2009-2010 conducted on people aged between 25 and 64, reveals that gender is a source of health differentiation in terms of mental illness among separated or divorced people, since women who have lost their partner "show poorer health than men with the same marital and cohabiting status, and are more likely to suffer from chronic anxiety and chronic depression", highlights Carles Simó. For their part, separated or divorced men "have higher risk for chronic depression than the rest of men", adds the researcher.

In the light of these conclusions, Carles Simó stresses the beneficial effect of domestic partnership, since it is a situation that attenuates ill health in all of the diseases studied. Thus, "the key is not marital status per se, but is found in the interaction between marital status and cohabitation status. Therefore, living with a new partner after the dissolution of marriage preserves the health of the people involved", he says.

The research team, including Andrea Hernández-Monleón, David Muñoz-Rodríguez and Maria Eugenia González-Sanjuan, also warns that this study highlights the need to improve data collection in studies on the relationship between health and divorce, given the growing importance of breakups in unions in the context of family transformations.

The determinants of marital breakups in Spain have been reasonably studied from sociology and demography, but not so much the consequences of divorce. "Previous studies carried out outside our country had already proven that, for both men and women, divorce increases the risk of disease, involves emotional costs and can affect mental health. Some studies had also revealed the protective role of cohabitation because it is an aid to integration into the community and reduces isolation. Still, our work - which employs self-perceived health indicators and information about diagnosed mental disorders - has succeeded in measuring the impact of union disruption on the mental health of those involved and also, it evaluates the effect of domestic partnership", concludes the researcher.