After Divorce: The Impact On Men's Health

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 5, 2022

While everyone may experience the issues mentioned in this article, please note that as part of our initiative responding to the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men (2018), these articles will focus on how these topics affect men and boys, and the mental health of men and boys, in honor of Men's Health Month. We use “men” to refer to people who identify as men.

Content warning: Please be advised, the below article mentions topics that include abuse and substance overuse. The information found in the article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have. If you need help immediately, the Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) and the SAMHSA National Helpline (Substance Use): (800)662-4357 can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

depression from divorce

Are You Struggling With How To Navigate A Divorce?

In a matter of moments, weeks, and months, your whole life can be turned upside down. What was supposed to be a forever commitment can end early, shaking a foundational element of your life.

Divorce is becoming an increasingly common reality for married couples all across the globe. This commonality doesn’t make the harsh consequences any less challenging. How can we support men who have faced the divorce process and help them rebuild, despite traditional masculinity standards?

What Causes A Marriage To Fail?

An estimated 39 percent of marriages in the U.S. end after divorce. Some couples, however, have remained married after starting the divorce process. What are the leading causes of divorce?

According to one study, these are the main reasons for divorce:

  • Lack Of Commitment 75%
  • Infidelity 59.6%
  • Too Much Arguing Or Conflict 57.7%
  • Marrying Too Young 45.1%
  • Financial Problems 36.7%
  • Substance Overuse 34.6%
  • Domestic Violence 23.5%

Keep in mind that the study participants were allowed to report multiple reasons for their divorce, so the numbers add up much further than 100 percent.

How Does Divorce Affect Male Health?

Going through a divorce is a painful and stressful process for every party involved. That being said, men can face a heavy burden when going through or after this experience, especially due to their tendency to engage in risk seeking behaviors to cope with stress. 

A new paper published in the Journal Of Men’s Health found that divorce can take a toll on men's physical and mental health.

According to this paper, divorced and unmarried men tend to have higher rates of depression and mortality and are more prone to substance abuse than married men. They found the mortality rate of men who get a divorce can be up to 250 percent higher than married men.

The study authors also showed that men after divorce are at a greater risk of experiencing health problems like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, weight fluctuations, and even the common cold.

It’s also important to note findings related to mental health; the researchers found that men after divorce are more likely to experience depression and partake in risky activities. These dangerous activities could include drug abuse and alcohol use prompted by depression.

How Does Divorce Affect Men Compared To Women?

As mentioned earlier, divorce is generally painful for everyone involved. This experience can impact all genders and parties involved. But, how do men's, after a divorce, experiences compare, and what challenging issues do men in particular face?

As you can imagine, losing a partner and primary social support can increase a man’s risk of isolation and depression. One research institute reported that 66% of men rely on their wives for their primary social supports. It’s also known that isolated men have an 82% higher risk of dying from heart disease.

Going through a divorce is a painful and life-changing experience, especially if you're one of many divorced dads. That makes it crucial to seek guidance or encourage your friends to do the same during this period. However, many men are less likely than women to get the professional help they need.

It’s crucial to note that divorce isn’t something you have to power through alone. Seeking guidance for depression caused by divorce is one of the most powerful things you can do during a hard time.

What Are The Stages Of Grief In Divorce?

You may also have a challenging time identifying and processing the stages of grief related to divorce. These stages won’t always come in order, but here’s an idea so you can be prepared after divorce.

1. Shock And Denial

The first stage is shock and denial. You may feel numb and in disbelief at what is taking place. You might also deny the emotions you’re experiencing.

2. Pain And Guilt

After the shock wears off, you will likely start to experience the pain of what you are going through. This stage can be excruciating, but make sure to confront your emotions head-on. Don’t try to cope with drugs or alcohol, as relying on these will worsen things long-term; instead, this is an excellent stage to start seeking guidance.

3. Anger And Bargaining

In this stage, you may become increasingly angry or start to make bargains with yourself and the situation. You may lash out at others, blame your ex-partner, or try to make deals or promises to get them back.

It is vital to control and harness your anger into something constructive. Watch your impulsivity and avoid harming the ones around you.

4. Depression, Reflection, Loneliness

Stage four may be one of the most demanding stages to overcome. In this stage, reality starts to set in, and you can have feelings of despair or depression.

Avoid closing yourself off during this stage. Take the necessary actions to keep moving forward by reaching out to friends and loved ones.

5. The Upward Turn

In stage five, things are starting to turn around. You may still have bad days, but you will eventually experience more of the good. You’re not entirely over the depression threshold yet, but luckily, it’s getting easier day by day.

6. Reconstruction And Breaking Through

Stage six is one of the most empowering stages of the grieving process. You can finally start to “move on” and make plans without your ex. You may begin setting goals and feel a sense of excitement for the possibilities that await you.

7. Acceptance And Hope

This is the final stretch. All the pain and negativity you felt during the previous stages have finally been worked through. You’ve accepted the situation and are taking the necessary steps after for a better future.
 
Getting over a divorce is never easy and will take a different amount of time for each man. The good news is, there are various ways you can rebuild your life throughout the grieving process.

Are You Struggling With How To Navigate A Divorce?

How Can A Man Rebuild His Life?

Rebuilding your life after divorce takes time and concentrated effort. A divorce may seem like the end of the world, but it’s a fresh start with many possibilities and opportunities.

Make Time To Grieve

Most people can take an average of two years to overcome their divorce. It's okay to adequately grieve your post divorce depression before entering a new relationship with a new partner. Take the time to confront your emotions. Identify what stage you’re in and try journaling. You might be in multiple stages at once; that’s ok. Writing may seem strange at first, but is an excellent way to get all of the thoughts and feelings that would otherwise bounce around in your mind onto paper, where you can better see and process them. You don’t have to be the next Shakespeare; just writing a few sentences on what you’re going through can give you a greater perspective after the whole situation.

Build Or Join A Friend Group

Every man needs to have a support network of friends and family members. Accept that with your divorce, you may be estranged from your former friend circles. Having to rebuild for your well being is okay, and you can work through it.
 
Find friends and individuals with shared interests and goals to form new relationships with. Join clubs, support groups or start a new social hobby to put yourself out there. The short end is that isolating yourself will only lead to a longer process, so be diligent in finding a tribe of your own.

Maintain Your Health

With all the waves of what you’re experiencing, it can be easy to neglect your physical health. Stay on top of your diet, fitness levels with regular exercise, and sleep. Divorced men are at increased risk for preventable diseases, so this could be a great time to start if you weren’t on top of these things during your marriage. 

Take Ownership

Now that you’re on your own, it’s time to take ownership of your life. Take responsibility for your part in the relationship and forgive yourself for anything you think is necessary. We all make mistakes, and that’s okay.
 
Take stock of the many factors that you can control. Whether it’s yourself, your career, or parenting time, make sure you are taking ownership of the areas of life that matter most to you.

Plan Your Finances

Whether you have an increase in finances or a momentary reduction, plan them out and take ownership. Whether you have to pay child support, legal fees, or a new place to live, plan it out and set goals for the long run. Letting your finances dip during this time can make it harder to bounce back and regain your sense of independence.

Set Goals

Setting goals is one of the most encouraging things you can do during a divorce.
 
What do you want to accomplish today, this week, this month, or this year? These goals are meant for you and how you want to live out your future. Be daring and figure out how to get to the life you’ve been dreaming of! Many apps, groups, and courses can give you a helpful edge along your way.

Seek Help

As always, you don’t have to face struggles on your own. Both men and women aren’t supposed to be lone wolves and need a solid pack to help them on their journey. The most important thing is to care for yourself. Check out BetterHelp so you can get more guidance about certified health care providers that can help you.

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