A recent study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes reveals insight from Duke University researchers who found women who divorce face a significantly higher risk of heart attack than their male counterparts. First time divorcees are 24 percent more likely to experience a heart attack, and the risk can skyrocket to 77 percent for women who divorce multiple times.
According to a review of the heart attack research on TIME.com, “dramatic life changes such as divorce … can lead to a spike in the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn can push blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar to unhealthy heights.”
While divorce can be stressful for both men and women, why are women at such a disproportionately higher risk for heart attack than men? The reasons are clear to Connatser Family Law Attorney Aubrey Connatser, who regularly witnesses the fallout her male and female clients experience due to divorce.
“Divorce can be plenty stressful for men, however women often end up facing more financial challenges and lifestyle changes than men post-divorce. In addition, being a mom can bring added pressures to women’s lives that many men don’t usually bear equally in the event of a divorce,” Aubrey says.
So why are divorced women so stressed out?
1. They tend to fly solo (avoid getting remarried) longer than men.
A recent survey by MillionaireMatch.com asked 5,000 divorced millionaire members if they would consider getting remarried in the next five years. While 83 percent of the men surveyed said they would consider it, only 32 percent of divorced millionaire women agreed.
This doesn’t surprise Aubrey, who says, “My male clients tell me all the time, ‘I will never, never, ever get married again, but in reality, most of them end up getting remarried within five years. Women tend to stay single much longer post-divorce.”
2. Women can’t rely on alimony in Texas and may have to return to work.
“Alimony is the exception not the rule in Texas. If you are capable of providing for your own minimum reasonable needs, the court expects you to do so following a divorce, rather than rely on your ex to provide support,” Aubrey says.
For many women, reentering the workforce can be anxiety provoking. If you’ve been married for several years and either have never held a full-time job or it’s been many years since you’ve been employed, finding a job that keeps you living in the style to which you’ve become accustomed (or a job period) isn’t easy.
Securing a job and doing it well can be especially hard on moms who are accustomed to staying home to raise the children. Along with managing the kids’ access schedule, school demands, extracurricular activities, doctors visits and the like, now many moms face the competing demands of a new career. Talk about stress!
3. They often end up earning considerably less than their ex-spouses.
According to Aubrey, “Women who stayed home either to raise a family, or because they could afford to do so while married, experience an interruption in the advancement of their careers. Consequently, when the woman reenters the workforce she likely will do so at a less senior level than her ex-spouse, which means her paycheck will be smaller”
Plus, women still earn less than men for doing the same job. As reported on the Whitehouse.gov equal pay webpage, “on average, full-time working women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.” Having less money to live on can leave many women worrying how they are going to pay bills and more …
4. Less income and financial instability can force lifestyle changes.
Women who haven’t prepared for the event of a divorce by saving and/or with a premarital agreement may not have enough income to keep the family home, which leads to the added stress of selling a house and moving. Moving itself is stressful, but all of the lifestyle changes that come with it can add even more to a divorcée’s pile of stressors.
“She may not be able to afford that home in a top-notch school district or private school for the kids anymore. In order to get the kids into a good public school, a move to the suburbs may be the only option. Depending on where she finds a job, more time may be spent commuting, and making it to Billy’s 4 o’clock soccer practice and doctor appointments may become challenging,” says Aubrey.
5. Our society expects women to be the default parent.
Aubrey finds, “Most working moms I know coordinate with the nanny and make arrangements for the kids’ activities. Women are judged if they don’t act as the ‘default parent.’ When mom doesn’t show up at practices or games, or take the kids to school, people are shocked, whereas it’s no big deal if dad doesn’t regularly show up.
Women are simply held to a higher standard when it comes to parenting. At the same time, I think most women want to be held to a higher standard, so they retain primary custody in the event of a divorce. That’s why women often have primary care and more possession time than men, because women choose to be the default parent. Honestly, I don’t think most women would complain about that, but taking on more responsibility with the kids can add more stress to a divorced mom’s life.”
Be Proactive About Your Health and Finances
If you are a woman who has recently divorced or are considering divorce, don’t take your health for granted. You need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your loved ones and survive the divorce process. It’s also important to take a proactive approach to your finances throughout marriage and in the event of divorce. Speak with a reputable family law attorney about protecting your financial future with a premarital agreement (this earlier post – 3 Reasons Aspiring Stay-at-Home Moms Need a Prenup – also offers great insight).