Divorce and risk of hospital-diagnosed infectious diseases

Scand J Public Health. 2014 Nov;42(7):705-11. doi: 10.1177/1403494814544398. Epub 2014 Aug 11.


Background: Although, divorce is considered to have a negative impact on morbidity, very little is known concerning exposure to divorce and risk of infectious diseases. We aimed to investigate the association between divorce and subsequent hospital contacts with infectious diseases.

Methods: We performed a nation-wide cohort study, including all Danish men and women (n≈5.6 million) alive on the 1 January 1982 or later, and followed them for infectious disease diagnosed in hospital settings from 1982 to 2010. The association between divorce and risk of infectious diseases was evaluated through rate ratios (RRs) comparing incidence rates of infectious diseases between divorced and married pesons.

Results: Compared with married persons, divorced persons were overall at a 1.48 fold (RR=1.48 (95% CI: 1.47-1.50)) increased risk of hospital-diagnosed infectious diseases (RR adjusted for sex, age, period, income and education). The risk of infectious diseases was slightly more pronounced for divorced women (RR=1.54 (1.52-1.56)) than divorced men ((RR=1.42 (1.41-1.44)). The increased risk remained almost unchanged even more than 15 years after the divorce. Young age at divorce, short duration of marriage and number of divorces further increased the risk of infectious diseases, whereas number of children at time of divorce had no impact on risk of hospital-diagnosed infectious diseases following the divorce.

Conclusions: Divorce appears to have a moderate but long lasting impact on the risk of infectious diseases the underlying mechanism is unknown but shared risk factors predicting divorce and infectious diseases could contribute to our findings.

Keywords: Stressful life event; divorce; hospital-diagnosed infectious diseases; nation-wide cohort study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communicable Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Divorce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk
  • Young Adult