Smoking and Physical Activity Explain the Increased Mortality Risk Following Marital Separation and Divorce: Evidence From the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND:Marital separation and divorce are associated with an increased risk of early mortality, but the specific biobehavioral pathways that explain this association remain largely unknown. PURPOSE:This study sought to identify the putative psychological, behavioral, and biomarker variables that can help explain the association of being separated or divorced and increased risk for early mortality. METHODS:Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a representative community sample of aging adults (N = 5,786), we examined the association of marital status and life satisfaction, health behaviors measured 2 years later, biomarkers measured 4 years later, and mortality outcomes from the subsequent 4 years. RESULTS:Consistent with prior literature, older adults who were separated/divorced evidenced greater risk of mortality relative to those in intact marriages over the study period, OR = 1.46, 95% CI [1.15, 1.86]. Marital status was associated with lower levels of life satisfaction, β = -0.22 [-0.25, -0.19] and greater likelihood of smoking 2 years later β = 0.17 [0.13, 0.21]. Lower life satisfaction predicted less frequent physical activity 2 years later, β = 0.07 [0.03, 0.10]. Smoking, but not physical activity, predicted poorer lung functioning 2 years later, β = -0.43 [-0.51, -0.35], and poorer lung function predicted increased likelihood of mortality over the following 4 years, β = -0.15 [-0.27, -0.03]. There was a significant total indirect effect of marital status on mortality through these psychological, behavioral, and biomarker variables, β = 0.03 [0.01, 0.05], which fully explained this mortality risk. CONCLUSIONS:For separated/divorced adults, differences in life satisfaction predict health behaviors associated with poorer long-term lung function, and these intermediate variables help explain the association between marital dissolution and increased risk of earlier mortality.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bourassa, KJ; Ruiz, JM; Sbarra, DA

Published Date

  • March 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 53 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 255 - 266

PubMed ID

  • 29796660

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6374715

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1532-4796

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0883-6612

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/abm/kay038


  • eng