Each year, almost 115,000 women in the U.S. will lose their health insurance in the months following a divorce, finds a study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Nearly 65,000 of these women will become uninsured for the long-term. Losing health insurance adds to the financial and emotional stress women frequently experience after a divorce.
Previous research shows that married women have better health, said lead study author Bridget Lavelle, a doctoral candidate in public policy and sociology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
"Having health insurance is one of a range of contributing factors," Lavelle added. "Married people also have higher incomes, more social support and better health behaviors than unmarried people, which also play a role. But the possibility that this specific resource of health insurance may be an important contributing factor has received surprisingly little attention in the body of research that explores why married people really are healthier."
Women often experience fairly substantial losses of economic resources after divorce, more so than their spouses—so many women get pushed below the poverty line, Lavelle said.
About a quarter of U.S. women below age 65 receive dependent health insurance that may cease after a divorce—a rate higher than for men.
The study utilized data from 1,442 women in the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Lavelle collaborated with UM colleague and sociology professor Pamela J. Smock to focus attention on this topic they felt was "off-the-radar" in both academic literature and policy.