Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 197–214 | Cite as

Divorce and the Multidimensionality of Men and Women’s Mental Health: The Role of Social-Relational and Socio-Economic Conditions

  • Sara SymoensEmail author
  • Sarah Van de Velde
  • Elien Colman
  • Piet Bracke


Research consistently reveals that the divorced generally face more mental health problems than the married. Less attention however has been paid to positive mental health indicators. Insight in these however may help policy makers and care providers to see both the broader picture and stimulate active coping. Using data from the European Social Survey (2006–2007), differences in both feelings of depression, and in feelings of self-esteem, autonomy, and competence between the married (N = 14,072) and divorced (N = 4,304) are estimated for women and men separately. Drawing on stress and coping theories, we map how specific social-relational and socio-economic conditions relate. Analyses reveal that divorce is related not only to more feelings of depression, but also to lower levels of self-esteem and competence. Difference scores in mental health based on marital status are also found to differ significantly between men and women for competence, with the difference being more pronounced in men. Additionally, social-relational and socio-economic conditions explain much of the gap in depression scores—and to a lesser extent, in self-esteem and competence scores—between the married and divorced. Finally, some interesting gender differences were found in how social-relational and socio-economic conditions relate to mental health when divorced, with women especially seeming to benefit from advantageous socio-economic conditions.


Divorce Gender Mental health Stress Wellbeing 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Symoens
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah Van de Velde
    • 1
  • Elien Colman
    • 1
  • Piet Bracke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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