While you may think older people would have a tougher time dealing with a marriage falling apart, research actually shows the opposite — younger people who get divorced often suffer more negative health effects than their older counterparts.

Michigan State University sociologist Hui Liu analyzed the self-reported health of more than 1,200 participants in a 15-year national survey, and she measured the gap in health status between those who remained married during study period and those who transitioned from marriage to divorce, paying special attention to certain ages and generations.

In one of her findings, she discovered that among people born in the 1950s, those who divorced between the ages of 35 and 41 reported more health problems than those who divorced in the 44 to 50 age range. And from a generational perspective, the negative health impacts of divorce were stronger for baby boomers than they were for older generations.

“I would have expected divorce to carry less stress for the younger generation, since divorce is more prevalent for them,” Liu said, but added that because the pressure to marry and stay married was stronger for older generations, those who did divorce may have been among the most unhappily married — and thus the most likely to be relieved when they did divorce.

Overall, those who transitioned from marriage to divorce during the study period experienced a more rapid health decline than those who remained married. However, those who remained divorced during the entire study period showed no health differences than those who remained married, suggesting to Liu that being married or divorced in and of itself doesn’t matter, but transitioning from marriage to divorce could cause stress-related health declines.

“It’s clear to me that we need more social and family support for the younger divorced groups,” said Liu, in a statement. “This could include divorce counseling to help people handle the stress, or offering marital therapy or prevention programs to maintain marital satisfaction.”

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