A 10-year study by researchers at Iowa State University has revealed that women who divorce give up more than just a husband.
Divorced women may also lose some of their good health compared to those who remain married.
In a study which focused on what happens to rural women's health after their marriage ends, compared with women who stay married, Fred Lorenz and colleagues found that though the act of divorce created no immediate effects on physical health it did affect the women's mental health.
Lorenz, a co-author of the study, says ten years down the line those effects on mental health had led to effects on physical health.
The researchers collected data on over 400 rural Iowa women, who were each interviewed in the early 1990s, and interviewed again in 2001.
When the study began approximately one-fourth of the women were recently divorced; all were mothers of adolescent children.
In interviews taken shortly after the divorce, the women reported a 7 percent higher level of psychological distress than married women but there were no differences in physical health recorded.
However, a decade later, the divorced women reported 37 percent more physical illnesses than the married women surveyed but no difference in psychological stress that could be directly linked to the divorce.
The women in the study marked off illnesses from a list of 46 choices ranging from the common cold and sore throat to heart conditions and cancer.
Lorenz said it appears there is a link between the higher number of physical illnesses and the different stresses associated with divorce, including financial problems, demotions, layoffs and parenting problems.
He says that divorced women, especially in rural areas, have poor job opportunities and fewer support systems.
The authors say the women also suffer stress from having to make changes in housing, insurance, transportation and spending time with children.