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First Marriages Often End in Divorce

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And they did. In fact, the most recently divorced women "had substantially worse endocrine and immune system function compared to the married women," says Waite. But surprisingly, the same was true for the women who'd already been divorced for five years.

So it's not just the transition of going through a divorce that affects health, says Waite, it's the state of being divorced. "The transition is tough, that's true," she says, but five years down the road "they were still more likely to get a cold or flu, less likely to recover from cancer, if they got it, or from a heart attack."

What's more, says Waite, the recently and not-so-recently divorced women were more likely than the marrieds to be depressed, anxious, and to feel less satisfied with their life and health overall. And there's every reason to believe that these findings would hold true for men, she tells WebMD.

Still, getting divorced does not necessarily mean that you will become ill. "These are tendencies, not absolutes," says Waite. "Not everybody is going to have these consequences."

One of the best things a divorced person can do to increase his or her overall health is to find someone -- whether a counselor, a friend, a parent, or a support group -- to confide in. Being able to openly discuss problems and feelings with someone who'll listen is critical to remaining healthy, says Waite.

Of course there is never a guarantee when you say, "I do," but if you'd like to improve your odds against the heartache and health risks of divorce, keep this in mind: "The older you are at [the time of] marriage, the more likely your marriage will last," says Bramlett. "And being younger may help you get remarried, but it doesn't help you stay remarried."

Bramlett tells WebMD that a follow-up CDC study now under way, which includes men, may help clarify the reasons behind these significant differences in marital success.

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