, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 89-97

Parental divorce and adult longevity

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Abstract

Objective

Life course research has established associations between adverse childhood events and later life health. We examine the relationship of experiencing parental divorce before the age of 16 and survival across 34 years of adulthood.

Methods

Analysis of panel data from a USA-based survey of 6,928 adults residing in Alameda County, California in 1965. Cox regression was used to examine associations between parental divorce and longevity.

Results

Controlling for age, race/ethnicity, gender, and childhood socioeconomic position, respondents who recalled a parental divorce during childhood had increased risk of mortality compared to those with no separation. The association was stronger for premature mortality and deaths due to cardiovascular disease. Divorce in childhood was also associated with lowered adult education, fewer social network ties, more depression, and worse health practices. These factors appeared to explain the association with longevity.

Conclusion

Parental divorce in childhood is associated with lowered well-being in adulthood and long-term survival. Early prevention and health promotion efforts may be warranted for children who experience parental divorce or discord as a means of supporting enhanced trajectories of health and well-being.

This article is part of the special issue “Life course influences on health and health inequalities: moving towards a Public Health perspective.”