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Is There A Link Between Mental Health And Divorce?

Is There A Link Between Mental Health And Divorce?

Couples get divorced under many different circumstances, but the likelihood of divorce may be higher for some groups than others. In this article we’ll examine the link between mental health and divorce.

There are plenty of different reasons why couples get divorced, and everyone’s situation is different. Regardless, research shows that there are common reasons and patterns that can be used to explain divorce.

Experiencing mental health struggles can be exceptionally difficult, equally, it’s often tough to support a partner who has a mental health disorder. If you or your partner experience these problems, you may find you need to seek advice from a divorce solicitor.

In this article, we’re going to discuss divorce and mental health, establishing whether there is a link between the two, and why this might be.

Are Mental Health Issues Associated With A Higher Likelihood Of Divorce?

Yes, according to research from The National Library of Medicine, ‘married individuals with higher levels of distress, alcohol use, or psychiatric disorders are more likely to divorce.’

The study data examined a wide range of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress, while also examining substance use disorders.

A Frontiers Psychology study confirms a similar association, suggesting that, ‘divorcees report poorer physical and mental health and more symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and social isolation than the general population.’

Why Are Those With Mental Health Problems More Likely To Get Divorced?

Research from BMC Public Health points to key factors such as social selection and social causation: ‘In social selection it is assumed that mental distress leads to divorce and that mentally distressed people are thus “selected” out of marriage. Social causation posits that divorce leads to mental distress due to the stresses of the transition into divorce and the new status as divorcee.’

While it is important not to stigmatise or to stereotype, there are many reasons why mental health problems can create issues in relationships, depending on the condition and the symptoms. Here are a few examples:


Those with depression can experience a range of symptoms, including feelings of hopelessness and unhappiness, insomnia, and anxiety. They may withdraw from their loved ones and lose interest in activities. People with severe depression may experience suicidal thoughts, requiring ongoing interventions to keep them safe and improve their health.

It can be tremendously difficult to support a partner with depression. The spouse may find that they are taking on a care giver role, and feeling the strain. Naturally, the condition can cause much tension and distress in relationships.


Many people with anxiety experience a consistent feeling of dread. They may have trouble controlling their worries, and experience panic attacks and trouble sleeping. It is likely that those with anxiety may also have some depressive symptoms.

This type of mental health disorder can affect one’s emotions and ability to function day-to-day. Consequently, relationships may be negativity effected.


This disorder is characterised by depressive episodes and manic episodes. Both episodes can be mild to severe (depending on the person). When in a depressive period, the individual may feel hopeless, empty or worthless.

Manic episodes are instead defined by feeling elated, hyperactive, or self-important. When having a manic episode, the person may do impulsive things, act out of character, or experience delusions or illogical thoughts.

For some people, the disorder can become all-consuming and make it difficult to maintain relationships. Having said this, many find that they can manage the condition well using medication.

Substance Abuse

Suffering from addiction can cause extremely negative consequences in relationships. It can be a struggle whether you are experiencing addiction, or attempting to support a loved one with substance abuse issues.

While substance issues can occur as a standalone problem that harms relationships, it is also closely linked to mental health problems. Those who experience mental health issues are often likely to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.

How Do Mental Health Issues Affect Divorce?

If one partner has received a mental health diagnosis, this may have a direct impact on the divorce proceedings. For example, when the Courts are making decisions with regard to child living arrangements and financial settlements, they will take mental health issues and or substance misuse issues into consideration.

Whether you are suffering from a mental health problem, or your ex-partner is, it is important that you access the support of a solicitor.

Both parties will require independent and specialist legal advice to protect their interests, and the interests of their children.

The Association Between Divorce And Mental Health

As you can see, studies show that there is a correlation between mental health and divorce. Those who have mental health disorders and/or substance misuse problems are more likely to get divorced compared to those who do not.

Mental health conditions cause a wide variety of symptoms, and many of these can easily cause tension and even abuse in relationships. If you or your partner are experiencing mental health problems while going through a divorce, it is important that you access help.

There are various forms of support available, including mental health services, therapy, support from loved ones, and divorce lawyers who can assist you throughout the divorce process.

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