Women who get divorced are more likely to suffer a heart attack than women who remain continuously married, a new study has found.
According to the findings, even if a divorced woman goes on to remarry, her risk of suffering a heart attack is still higher.
"Divorce is a major stressor, and we have long known that people who are divorced suffer more health consequences. But this is one of the first studies to look at the cumulative effect of divorce over a long period. We found that it can have a lasting imprint on people's health," explained the study's lead author, Dr Matthew Dupre, of Duke University in the US.
Almost 16,000 people aged between 45 and 80 took part in the study and all had been married at least once. The participants were interviewed every two years between 1992 and 2010, during which time, around one-third got divorced at least once.
The research revealed that women had a higher risk of suffering a heart attack if they were divorced, even if they later remarried. In fact, women who had been divorced at least two times were almost twice as likely to suffer a heart attack compared to women who had remained married.
The results were slightly different for men. Those who had been divorced once had about the same heart attack risk as men who had remained married. But this risk appeared to increase if the man had been through two or more divorces.
Furthermore, where remarried women still had a higher heart attack risk, men who remarried had the same heart attack risk as those who had remained married continuously.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.