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J Health Soc Behav. 2000 Dec;41(4):451-64.

Marital trajectories and mental health.

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Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, 30 College Ave., Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1293, USA.


This study expands the marital status and mental health literature by examining several dimensions of marital trajectories, including the number and type of prior marital losses and duration in current status. Data are drawn from the Piedmont Health Survey of the National Institute of Mental Health Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study, collected in 1982-83 (n = 2,158). Results indicate that number of prior losses moderates the health-enhancing effect of being currently married; higher order marriages are associated with worse mental health. Although results vary across the mental illnesses examined (depression, anxiety, and substance use), the negative effect of multiple loss also is observed for the currently divorced and widowed. There is less evidence that the type of prior loss (i.e., divorce or widowhood) moderates the effect of current marital status on mental health; however, some support is found among the presently widowed. The analyses of duration in current status suggest that the rate of decline in symptoms of anxiety following one's most recent loss varies by marital history among the currently widowed.

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