Going through a breakup at any age is never easy.
But women may find it harder than men to adjust to a relationship breakup or divorce later in life, according to a new study.
A long-term study of people ages 50 to 70 tracked antidepressant use among those who had experienced a relationship breakup, divorce, or bereavement.
And although both sexes increased their use of antidepressants in the period before and immediately after each event, women’s use of these medications was greater than men’s.
Due to an aging population, “gray divorce” after age 50 is increasing in high-income countries and, as a result, so are new couples, the researchers said.
Depression in old age is also relatively common: up to 15 percent of people over 55 experience depressive symptoms.
A long-term study of people ages 50 to 70 tracked antidepressant use among those who had experienced a relationship breakup, divorce, or bereavement. And although both sexes increased their use of antidepressants in the period before and immediately after each event, women’s use of these medications was greater than men’s.
But few studies have looked at the impact of late-life divorce, relationship breakdown, bereavement, or a new relationship on antidepressant use.
The team, from Chongqing Medical University in China, tracked patterns of antidepressant use between 1996 and 2018 among 228,000 older people in Finland.
In total, 37 percent were grieving, a third were divorced and 30 percent stopped living with their partner as a result of a breakup.
The analysis revealed that the likelihood of antidepressant use increased by 5.5 percent in men and 7 percent in women in the three months before and three months after a bereavement.
Antidepressant use also increased in the six months before divorce for both sexes: 5 percent in men and 7 percent in women.
However, women who experienced a breakup significantly increased their use of antidepressants in the four years before the event.
Men also increased their use of these drugs, but to a much lesser extent: just over 3 percent, compared to 6 percent among women.
Within a year, antidepressant use fell back to the level it was at 12 months before the breakup among men.
But it was a different story for women, as their use decreased only slightly after the breakup and then began to increase again starting in the first year.
The study also found that 53,000 participants entered into a new relationship within two to three years of bereavement, divorce or breakup.
The researchers found that men were more likely to find a new partner than women.
In a paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers said the findings “may be related to the fact that the mental health costs of union dissolution fall more heavily on women than men.” .
“Gender differences in family roles, responsibilities and economic status are often explanations for the greater detrimental impacts of union dissolution on mental health observed in women than in men,” they added.
It comes as separate research reveals women see their household income drop twice as much as men after a divorce.
A study by Legal & General Retail found that women see their household income drop by 41 percent in the year following divorce, compared to 21 percent for men.
Women are more likely to face financial difficulties after divorce and have more worries about covering essential costs, the research showed.