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What’s worse: the pain of divorce or an unhappy marriage?

Divorce is often cited as one of life’s most traumatic events. In terms of the amount of grief and distress it brings with it, the severing of the connubial knot is right up there with the death of a loved one and financial ruin.

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Couple arguing in bedroom

Masterfile

Divorce is often cited by mental health experts as one of life’s most traumatic events. In terms of the amount of grief and distress it brings with it, the severing of the connubial knot is right up there with the death of a loved one and financial ruin. But is there something even worse for an individual’s state of mind and sense of well being than divorce? And is this state of affairs especially true for women?  

It seems so. And perhaps even more surprising is the fact that that misery-making thing may be an unhappy marriage coupled with a patriarchal culture that stigmatizes divorce and enforces certain values (sexual, ethical, cultural) on women without acknowledging any modern notions of equality.  

How bad can a bad marriage be? According to a study (via jezebel.com) done by researcher Vikram Patel at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, there is a higher rate of suicide among married women in China and India than in other developed countries. The study (via BusinessWeek) also found that women in India and China who have gone through divorce or are widowed don’t kill themselves as often as married, highly educated women in those same countries.  

But don’t go thinking having an ex-husband makes women happier — at least not in developed nations it doesn’t. Another study found that in high-income countries, depression, mental illness and divorce are correlated with an increased risk of suicide.  

Socio-economic and cultural differences aside, the study paints a complex picture of how the failure of a marriage — whether it’s an official or unofficial disaster — dramatically affects an individual’s state of mind and sense of well being.