A Multinational Study of Mental Disorders, Marriage, and Divorce

Published in: Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, v. 124, no. 6, Dec. 2011, p. 474-486

Posted on RAND.org on December 01, 2011

by Joshua Breslau, Elizabeth Miller, Robert Jin, Nancy A. Sampson, Jordi Alonso, Laura Helena Andrade, Evelyn J. Bromet, Giovanni de Girolamo, Koen Demyttenaere, John Fayyad, et al.

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OBJECTIVE: Estimate predictive associations of mental disorders with marriage and divorce in a cross-national sample. METHOD: Population surveys of mental disorders included assessment of age at first marriage in 19 countries (n = 46 128) and age at first divorce in a subset of 12 countries (n = 30 729). Associations between mental disorders and subsequent marriage and divorce were estimated in discrete time survival models. RESULTS: Fourteen of 18 premarital mental disorders are associated with lower likelihood of ever marrying (odds ratios ranging from 0.6 to 0.9), but these associations vary across ages of marriage. Associations between premarital mental disorders and marriage are generally null for early marriage (age 17 or younger), but negative associations come to predominate at later ages. All 18 mental disorders are positively associated with divorce (odds ratios ranging from 1.2 to 1.8). Three disorders, specific phobia, major depression, and alcohol abuse, are associated with the largest population attributable risk proportions for both marriage and divorce. CONCLUSION: This evidence adds to research demonstrating adverse effects of mental disorders on life course altering events across a diverse range of socioeconomic and cultural settings. These effects should be included in considerations of public health investments in preventing and treating mental disorders.

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