Emotional stress and traffic accidents: the impact of separation and divorce

Epidemiology. 2004 Nov;15(6):762-6. doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000142140.77194.ad.


Background: Personal responses to stressful life events are suspected of increasing the risk of serious traffic accidents.

Methods: We analyzed data from a French cohort study (the GAZEL cohort), including a retrospective driving behavior questionnaire, from 13,915 participants (10,542 men age 52-62 years and 3373 women age 47-62 years in 2001). Follow-up data covered 1993-2000. Hazard ratios for serious accidents (n = 713) were computed by Cox's proportional hazard regression with time-dependent covariates. Separate analyses were also performed to consider only at-fault accidents.

Results: Marital separation or divorce was associated with an increased risk of a serious accident (all serious accidents: hazard ratio 2.9, 95% confidence interval = 1.7-5.0; at-fault accidents: 4.4, 2.3-8.3). The impact of separation and divorce did not differ according to alcohol consumption levels. Other life events associated with increased risk of serious accident were a child leaving home (all accidents: 1.2, 0.97-1.6; at-fault accidents: 1.5, 1.1-2.1), an important purchase (all accidents: 1.4, 1.1-1.7; at-fault accidents: 1.6, 1.2-2.1), and hospitalization of the partner (all accidents: 1.4, 1.1-2.0).

Conclusion: This study suggests that recent separation and divorce are associated with an increase in serious traffic accidents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Factors
  • Cohort Studies
  • Divorce / psychology*
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires