Women happier than men after divorce: study
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Despite the hellishness of divorce — emotional turmoil, disrupted living arrangements, and a shrinking income — there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, especially for women, a new study has found.
Research published in the journal Economica has found that women are much happier and satisfied with their lives following divorce.
“In the study we took into account the fact that divorce can sometimes have a negative financial impact on women, but despite that it still makes them much happier than men” said lead author Yannis Georgellis, director of the Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society at the Kingston Business School in London, England.
“Getting out of a long-lasting bad marriage is a possible explanation,” he said in an email.
The study involved an ongoing survey of 10,000 people between the ages of 16 and 60. Over a period of 20 years, participants were regularly asked to rate their happiness after major milestones, including divorce, death of a spouse and loss of a job.
Researchers examined the psychological process of “adaptation,” or the way in which we adjust to new circumstances.
They found that women are significantly more content than usual for up to five years following the end of their marriages. In fact, they are even happier during this time than compared to their average or “baseline” of happiness throughout their lives.
While men also felt happier following divorce, the increase was much less marked than for women.
Georgellis said the study is a hopeful one for women who might be afraid of the huge life changes that come with divorce.
‘There is always hope that life will be better than before marriage,” he said.
The findings may even bolster the courage of women who might be too afraid to take the bold step.
“As the results of the study suggest, on average women are better off after divorce so there is no need to be frightened. But again we are talking about on average,” Georgellis said.
Guy Grenier, an adjunct psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario, said other studies have shown men are happier after divorce. A big factor affecting happiness is financial stability, and following divorce men’s incomes have historically dropped by about 25 per cent compared to 50 per cent for women.
“Now that trend is beginning to change,” he said, noting that in recent decades women have been marrying later, staying in school longer, establishing careers and earning more money.
Grenier is also a marital therapist and author of the book, The Ten Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married (And How to Have Them) . He says it’s really not surprising that women as well as men are happier after getting out of a bad marriage.
“Sometimes couple’s therapy is actually giving people permission to recognize this is a bad relationship and you are allowed to leave,” he said.
Doreen Fumia, an associate professor of sociology at Ryerson University, said one reason men may not be as happy as women following divorce is that they have to take on more of the domestic work traditionally done by women.
“The second thing is men don’t have friendship circles in the same way women do. Women tend to have a support system in place and often the girlfriends are the people they have a lot of fun with and they are freed up to go out with the girls,” she said.