Happiness Levels After Divorce Decrease And May
Never Completely Rebound
December 15, 2005
A study published in the December issue of Psychological Science finds divorce
leaves a lasting effect on our satisfaction levels. A person's happiness level
drops as she or he approaches divorce and gradually rebounds over time. But the
level of satisfaction does not return to baseline (the level of satisfaction
felt prior to the divorce.) Although some rebounding does occur in the years
immediately following, there are lasting changes. "Instead people's
satisfaction ended up .22 to .34 points lower than baseline levels," author
Richard Lucas states.
To measure the long-term life changes before and after a divorce the author used
data from an 18-year study of 30,000 Germans that examined their reactions. The
surveys were conducted yearly using face-to-face interviews and respondents
participated in at least one of the 18 waves. The author found that neither age
nor sex moderated the effects of divorce on happiness and satisfaction.
"Researchers, clinicians, and friends and family members of persons who
have experienced such events should not assume that time naturally heals all
wounds," Dr. Lucas concludes. "Instead, some people may never adapt to
some life events, at least not without intervention."
This study is published in the December issue of Psychological Science.
The flagship journal of the American Psychological Society, Psychological
Science publishes authoritative articles of interest across all of psychological
science, including brain and behavior, clinical science, cognition, learning and
memory, social psychology, and developmental psychology.
Richard Lucas is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at
Michigan State University. He conducts research on the causes of stability and
change in happiness and subjective well-being and has published a number of
papers on how people adapt to major life events. Dr. Lucas is available for
media questions and interviews.
The American Psychological Society represents psychologists advocating
science-based research in the public's interest. For more information, please
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