Recent studies are shedding new light on the impact of divorce on society and the individual. According to a Brown University longitudinal study, based on data collected beginning in 1948, divorce may be “contagious.” The study found that having a friend who is divorced dramatically increases one’s chances of divorce, as participants with a divorced friend were 75 percent more likely than other couples to become divorced. Study participants with two degrees of separation between themselves and a divorced individual—in other words, a friend of a friend—were 33 percent more likely to divorce. While this study is not representative of the population as a whole, it nevertheless paints an interesting picture of divorce and the “social contagion” phenomenon.
Another recent study, focused on approximately 1.3 million Americans involved in accidents between 1986 and 2006, found that divorced people were two times more likely to die from the most-preventable causes of accidents than their married counterparts. Among the most-preventable causes of accidents are fire and poisoning. The Rice University and University of Pennsylvania study also showed that married people were just as likely to die from the least-preventable causes of accidents, such as airplane crashes. One of the study’s authors suggests that the encouragement and support among married couples may play a role in interpreting the findings.