A case study in the Journal of Men's Health suggests further research is "urgently needed" to investigate the deleterious effects of divorce on men's health, and urges doctors to refer more men to therapists.
Divorced men have higher rates of mortality, substance abuse and depression, and often lack social support, according to numerous studies. Premature death rates for divorced men are often a result of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and stroke.
Mortality rates are also impacted by increased risky behavior among divorced and never-married men. Divorced or separated males also have a 39 percent higher suicide rate than married males.
Authors Daniel Felix of the University of Nebraska, W. David Robinson of Utah State University and Kimberly Jarzynka of University of Nebraska Medical Center published a case study urging health professionals to recognize "divorce-related health problems" in men.
The study centers on a 45-year-old white male who "endured a difficult divorce" two years prior. He visited his family doctor for the first time in ten years complaining of bad sleep and persistent abdominal pain.
The man revealed that he drinks “about a six pack of beer a day," has recently begun hating his job in middle management at a local bank, and has become irritated with his coworkers and boss.
He eventually reported having limited access to his children and paying a "significant amount of child support." The man also said his ex-wife “took all our friends with her after the divorce.”
The researchers reported the man's physical condition as "unremarkable" apart from having a slightly enlarged liver and being somewhat overweight. They instead attributed his mild physical ailments and seemingly mild depressive state to continued anxiety and stress associated with his divorce.
The authors warn doctors about treating ailments that have a psychological basis in divorce. They recommend nutrition, exercise and sleep education. They also urge physicians to refer men to alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs, counselors or other mental health professionals or divorce support groups.
"Popular perception, and many cultures as well as the media present men as tough, resilient, and less vulnerable to psychological trauma than women," said Ridwan Shabsigh, Professor of Clinical Urology, Cornell University and President of the International Society of Men's Health.
"The fact is that men get affected substantially by psychological trauma and negative life events such as divorce, bankruptcy, war and bereavement," Shabsigh said. "Research is urgently needed to investigate the prevalence and impact of such effects."