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The Mental Impact of ‘Grey Divorce’


‘Grey divorce’ (divorce in those aged over 50) is fast becoming known as ‘the new norm’, with Statistics Canada stating that divorce rates have been consistently rising in this age group, and percentages predicted to rise over the next few years as people continue to age. Researchers attribute rising grey divorce rates to many factors, including rising lifespans and seniors’ refusal to settle for an unhappy or unsatisfying marriage. Many see their winter years as an opportunity for newfound independence and freedom. Others wish to meet a partner they can truly feel connected to. Still others are battling mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression as a result of being in an unhappy marriage for so many years.

Depression as a Source of Stress

Chronic stress is related to a host of physical and mental conditions, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, anxiety, and depression. Depression in any age is considered the second most stressful life event, as per the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. From a financial perspective, spouses may find that they no longer have the comfortable ‘nest egg’ or pension they were looking forward to enjoying in their senior years. The average cost of a divorce in Canada stands at around $13,000 for a contested divorce, and around $1,400 for an uncontested one.

Grey Divorce is More Economically Stressful

Economists Angela Hung and David Knapp recently compared the financial impact of divorce among couples aged in their 30s and 50s, respectively, finding that those who split up in their 50s are much worse off economically. “if you get divorced in your 30s you still have time to re-enter the workforce if you need to or change your career path. You also have 30 to 40 years to accumulate assets [for retirement]. If you split up in your 50s, you have a much shorter time horizon,” they told Global News Canada. Reduced earnings and the cost of divorce can hit one’s finances at an extremely vulnerable time of life. Evidently, the level of financial stress depends upon issues such as whether or not alimony is due, the extent to which property or assets owned before marriage become mingled into family property, and the amount of family debt owed. Those with young children can also contest financial arrangements regarding their children’s schooling.

The Effect of Grey Divorce of Overall Health

Research has pointed out that the lower one’s socio-economic status, the harder grey divorce can be. Those who have less means are more likely to battle issues such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Getting a divorce can result in couples suddenly having a vastly reduced social network and lower quality of relationships.

Looking for the Silver Lining

Divorce can also affect one’s mental health positively. For instance, those who have been battling depression and stress because they have been putting up with a marriage that makes them unhappy, can delight at their newfound independence. Many seniors also look forward to the chance of meeting someone else. In fact, online dating among seniors is the fastest growing demographic in this industry.

Seniors are living longer, which in itself is a key reason to pursue happiness – even if this means taking the big, bold step that divorce entails. Seniors should be aware of the stress that their decision can entail, taking proactive steps to reduce stress. Yoga, meditation, and spirituality are just a few proven methods to lower levels of stress hormones, which if left unchecked can lower quality of life and provoke physical and mental illness.

By: Jennifer Dawson 

About Jennifer Dawson


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