Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Study Finds

August 29, 2007

“Breaking Up is Hard to Do” is advice from a popular 1970s song, but older women going through a relationship breakup may have health problems to go along with their broken hearts, a University of Alabama researcher has found.

Dr. Bronwen Lichtenstein, UA assistant professor of criminal justice who specializes in women’s issues, recently completed a study of the health risks women over age 35 faced when they returned to the dating scene after the breakup of a long-term relationship.

Lichtenstein was investigating the theory that after an older woman leaves a long-term relationship she may make risky dating choices. “Being in a relationship for 20 years means you have no idea what the dating scene is like today,” she said.

Lichtenstein surveyed women in the West Alabama area and found that these women – many of them like your mother or your grandmother – often faced depression, lack of health information, and lack of social support after their relationships ended.

How did they cope with starting over? Well, it may start with food, Lichtenstein found. “One of the most interesting things for me was that they told me they often meet people in grocery stores. There’s a whole dating scene for this age group going on in Wal-Mart and Publix,” she reports.

The hooking-up over food phenomenon may be happening because there are few, if any, places where older people can meet. “Young people have places to go to meet one another and that doesn’t exist for a lot of older people -- some may be embarrassed to go to church groups for singles or they may feel that the groups are for younger people,” Lichtenstein said.

Lichtenstein looked at how these women, who were recently divorced or widowed, were equipped with the proper health information about the spread of sexually transmitted diseases when dating. “Women are biologically more at risk for STDs at 50 than at 20, and most women don’t realize it,” the UA College of Arts and Sciences professor noted.

Almost all the women in the study reported being depressed after ending a relationship, and at least half the women had been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. The women faced biological, emotional and personal issues, although the real problem is that the issues are not being addressed, Lichtenstein found.

“There is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in returning to the dating scene – women ask ‘Am I attractive?’ and ‘What are the rules?’ – but nobody knows what the rules are because everything’s changed,” she said.

Who fares the best the second time around?

“Women who are confident and assured of themselves seem to deal with these relationship issues better. They may not be in a better place, but they find other things to do and find a satisfying life on their own.

“A good example of this is a 62-year-old woman who joined a motorcycle club and began a wonderful social life. Another example would be a woman who never married but owned her own business and had a lot of friends,” she said.

Source: University of Alabama

Explore further: Changes in young people's sexual practices over the last 20 years revealed

Related Stories

Changes in young people's sexual practices over the last 20 years revealed

November 20, 2017
Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study describes changes in young people's sexual practices using nationally-representative data from the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal), the ...

Who's in control when you're giving birth?

December 5, 2017
Kimberly Turbin wasn't expecting childbirth to be a pleasant experience, but she wasn't expecting it to be a nightmare either.

Young people in sub-Saharan Africa integral to shaping future HIV/AIDS policy

December 2, 2017
Professor Piot's comments were made at the launch of a new policy paper published by LSHTM and the charity Sentebale to support governments, policy makers and NGOs in combatting the continuing high levels of HIV among adolescents ...

Women need health and dental care to stay out of prison

October 23, 2017
"What I have done is not who I am. Most of us are emotionally and physically wounded. It's not easy getting out and starting over. We need help, don't just throw us out into society."

Link between childhood in care and mums who have babies removed by the courts

October 3, 2017
A study has found a high number of women, who repeatedly appear before the family courts and lose many children into public care or adoption because of child protection concerns, have been in care themselves.

Is he really that into you?

November 2, 2017
Women who grow up without a caring father, or who even are reminded of painful and disappointing experiences with their father, see more sexual intent in men.

Recommended for you

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

One in five patients report discrimination in health care

December 14, 2017
Almost one in five older patients with a chronic disease reported experiencing health care discrimination of one type or another in a large national survey that asked about their daily experiences of discrimination between ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.