Women may struggle more to cope with a “gray divorce” after the age of 50 than older men, according to a new study.
Researchers found that not only do older men find it easier to hop into a new relationship after a marriage breaks down later in life but they are less likely to use anti-depressants than women of the same age.
While both sexes increased their antidepressant use in the run up to and immediate aftermath of a divorce, break-up, or bereavement, women’s use of these drugs was greater than men’s.
The Chinese research team noted that due to population aging, “gray divorce” – from the age of 50 onwards – is on the rise in high-income countries, and consequently, so is re-partnering.
They also noted that later life depression is relatively common, with an estimated 10 to 15 per cent of over-55s experiencing clinically significant depressive symptoms.
To get their results the team studied antidepressant use of 228,644 older people aged 50 to 70 who had gone through divorce, relationship break-up, or bereavement, and the impact of subsequent re-partnering in those who had done so.
Subsequently, 53,460 people entered into a new relationship within two to three years.
The findings, published in the BMJ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, showed that more men than women re-partnered after bereavement or a relationship break-up.
Both men and women whose partners died, increased their use of antidepressants – with a steep increase in the three months before and the three months afterwards, by just under 5.5 percent in men and by nearly seven percent in women.
Similarly, antidepressant use increased in the six months before divorce by five percent in men and by seven percent in women.
In a breakup the gap was even larger with men upping their antidepressants by three percent and women by six percent.
However, men managed to drop their usage back within a year to what it was 12 months prior to their break-up, whereas women began increasing their dosage again from the first year onwards.
Small falls in usage associated with re-partnering were observed, but they were short-lived as use of these drugs returned to the level observed or remained even higher two years afterwards.
The researchers believe that women struggle more with the dissolution of relationships as the costs fall more heavily on them and the emotional support in another relationship is stronger for men.
Professor Yaoyue Hu, of Chongqing Medical University in China, said: “The greater increases in antidepressant use associated with union dissolution among women in our study may indeed relate to the fact that the costs of union dissolution on mental health fall more heavily on women than men.
“The smaller declines in use associated with re-partnering in women than in men may be related to the explanations that marriage benefits men’s mental health to a greater extent than women’s, and older men are more likely than women to seek emotional support from re-partnering.
“In addition, women may take greater responsibilities to manage interpersonal relationships between the blended families, such as those with the partner’s children, which could undermine their mental health.”
Prof Hu added: “Our findings underscore the challenges of adapting to union dissolution in later life and the associated need for support.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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