Divorce can be stressful enough, although mediation aims to reduce the stress as much as possible by overcoming seemingly impassable bones of contention.
But newly published research shows why this is so important, not just for the wellbeing of the involved parties at the time, but for their long-term cardiovascular health as well.
A team from Aston Medical School at Aston University analysed records for nearly a million patients from 2000-2013 and compared their marital status to their chances of survival following a heart attack or similar cardiac condition.
Their findings may be surprising to some, but highlight how marital status and stress can interact with physical health, and why a smoother divorce could have far-reaching consequences.
In their results, cardiac patients who were married had a 14% higher chance of survival than those who were single, with similar results even if they suffered from high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure.
Patients did not have to have an actual heart attack for a difference to be noticeable – a similar effect was also seen among those with cardiovascular risk factors.
But of course ‘single’ can mean never-married or widowed as well as divorced – and the researchers were careful to measure the effects on each of these groups separately.
Lead author on the study Dr Paul Carter said: “The nature of a relationship is important and there is a lot of evidence that stress and stressful life events, such as divorce, are linked to heart disease.
“With this in mind, we also found that divorced patients with high blood pressure or a previous heart attack had lower survival rates than married patients with the same condition.”
Nobody is suggesting that cardiac patients should stay in an unhappy marriage for the sake of their health, and doing so would have its own stressful consequences.
Rather, it is important if you have high cholesterol or blood pressure, diabetes, or any other concern about your cardiovascular health, that you make sure your divorce is the least stressful that it can be.
Mediation aims to achieve this in all circumstances, regardless of any immediate health concerns about either party, and has plenty of other practical benefits besides.
It can also make sure the opinions of any affected children are taken into account, for example when deciding on their future place of residence, and can also help to keep things moving without reaching an impasse, which should mean most divorces are granted faster and at lower cost overall.