Does Poor Mental Health Explain Excess Mortality after Marital and Non-Marital Separation?

Niina Metsä-Simola , University of Helsinki
Heta Moustgaard, University of Helsinki
Pekka Martikainen, University of Helsinki

Mortality is elevated after union separation, but it remains unclear whether psychiatric morbidity explains this excess. Using register-data, we followed 213,224 working-age Finns living in unions for psychiatric morbidity (psychotropic drug purchases, psychiatric hospital care), separation and mortality from 1998 to 2012 and modelled hazard ratios (HR) of post-separation cause-specific mortality. Compared to those continuously married, the age-adjusted HR for post-separation all-cause mortality was 2.45 (95% CI 2.33-2.57) among divorced men and 1.68 (1.56-1.82) among divorced women. The excess was larger for external and alcohol-related causes of death. Preliminary results showed that adjustment for post-separation psychiatric morbidity had little effect on this excess, but psychiatric morbidity before and during the separation process attenuated it by 20-30%. For other than external and alcohol-related causes, the attenuation was up to 50%. Next steps will focus on changes in mortality risk over time since the separation and differences between marital and non-marital separations.

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 Presented in Session 11. Health & Mortality 2