International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 89–97

Parental divorce and adult longevity

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00038-012-0373-x

Cite this article as:
Larson, K. & Halfon, N. Int J Public Health (2013) 58: 89. doi:10.1007/s00038-012-0373-x



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.


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.


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.


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.


Parent divorceSurvivalHealth habits

Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and CommunitiesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PediatricsDavid Geffen School of Medicine, UCLALos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health ServicesSchool of Public Health, UCLALos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Department of Public PolicySchool of Public Affairs, UCLALos AngelesUSA