Breakup of a marriage can be tough for an entire family. New studies have revealed that men are at increased risk for suicide and substance abuse issues after a marital separation.
When a family experiences a marital breakup, everyone’s first concern is usually the wellbeing of the children. While the health and happiness of the children is a vital consideration, it is also important to ensure the wellbeing of the husband. Recent studies have proven that divorce puts men at risk for a plethora of health issues, both physical and mental, including suicide and substance abuse.
Marital Separation and Men’s Health
A recent study published in the Journal of Men’s Health concluded that mortality rate of divorced men (and unmarried men) can be up to 250% higher than that of married men. This inflated death rate is due in part to the increased risk of physical ailments in divorced men, including:
- Heart disease;
- Heart attacks;
- Cold and flu; and even
While these physical illnesses are certainly concerning, it is not the only health issue that divorced men experience, many also suffer from mental health problems, as well. In fact, divorced men experience higher rates of depression than married men. Similarly, divorced men are ten times more likely to seek the help of a mental health professional. A divorced man who is suffering with depression might be experiencing:
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or helplessness;
- Isolation or social withdrawal;
- Loss of interest in activities he once enjoyed;
- Inability to concentrate; or
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
Unfortunately, mental illnesses, including depression, put a divorced man at higher risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. In fact, divorced men experience suicidal ideations 39% more than their married counterparts. This may be unsurprising, as negative major life events are a well-known predictor of suicide attempts.
The Role of Substance Abuse
Not only are men at higher risk for the above-referenced mental and physical ailments, they also experience an increased rate of substance abuse. The reasoning behind this can be complex, but may include:
- Substance abuse issues prior to (and maybe even leading to) divorce;
- Using substance abuse as a coping mechanism to deal with the stressors of divorce; or
- Using substance abuse as a way to self medicate for current issues (such as depression), whether caused by divorce or existing prior to divorce.
Substance abuse and suicide often go hand in hand, no matter what demographic is being studied. Whether the underlying issues were caused by the divorce or present before the divorce, many men use drugs and alcohol to cope with the negative emotions and stressful events.
Because substance abuse can actually change the way a brain functions, it can also be the cause of a depressive state. As such, depression can be the cause of substance abuse or a side effect. Both of which can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Why Men Are At Higher Risk
Divorce disrupts a family unit, whether it is of just two people, or a whole family. The process can cause stress and anxiety, which can develop into a substance abuse disorder or mental/emotional problem. Potential stressors include:
- Emotional strain between the couple;
- Court or legal proceedings;
- Financial crisis;
- Impact on children or other family members; or
- Sudden need to move or find a new job.
This stress and anxiety can lead some men to develop bad habits, including:
- Unhealthy eating;
- Impulsive behaviors;
- Social withdrawal;
- Lack of exercise; or
- Increased drinking or drug use.
The combination of stress and unhealthy habits can lead to other detrimental factors, including:
- Weight gain; or
- Substance abuse.
The overall impact of these factors typically cause a man’s brain and body to function at a less than optimal level, leading to the above-described physical or mental ailments. Often, as these issues take hold, a man may begin to feel as though suicide is his only option to cope. Fortunately, there is hope. Men who are going through a marital separation often benefit from the support and guidance of:
- A medical professional;
- A life coach;
- A spiritual or religious advisor;
- Local community groups; or
- Trusted friends and family.
It is never too late, or too early, to seek help. Men should not let the stigma of masculinity keep them from reaching out. These resources, however, are not your only source of information. If you are looking for help coping with a marital separation, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts, please feel free to contact us today.
Steve Johnson has always been dedicated to promoting health and wellness in all aspects of life. Studying in the medical field has shown him how important it is for reputable health-related facts, figures, tips, and other guidance to be readily available to the public. He created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow student to act as a resource for people’s overall health inquiries and as an accurate and extensive source of health information. When he isn’t hard at work in his studies, Steve enjoys playing tennis and listening to his vintage record collection.