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.