Failed Marriages, Fractured Minds

The epidemic of mental illness in recent decades has psychiatrists looking for causes. One of those causes of psychopathology—namely, marital failure—stands out clearly in a study recently completed by an international team of researchers. Affiliated with Kern Medical Center and California State University at Bakersfield in the United States and Chonbuk National University Medical School in Korea, these researchers sought to identify demographic variables predictive of schizophrenia spectrum disorders and affective disorders. And marital status emerged in their analysis as a marker of elevated risk of both types of psychological distress. The data for the new study comes from the discharge summaries of all 2,051 adult patients admitted between July 2003 and March 2007 to the county mental hospital for Kern County in southern-central California. Parsing these data, the researchers conclude that marital status is one of eight variables—along with “family psychiatric history, length of hospitalization, gender, education, . . . ethnicity, living situation, and insurance”—that were “significantly associated with the diagnosis of schizophrenia spectrum disorder” (p < 0.001 for marital status). In analyzing the data further using statistical models that take into account a range of “clinical variables,” the researchers concluded that “failure of marriage” was just one of four demographic variables—along with “lower education, . . . homelessness, and low quality insurance”—that were still “significantly associated with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.” A similar pattern emerges when the researchers shift their focus to affective disorders of the psyche. Once again, marital status emerges as one of the statistical predictors (along with “family psychiatric history, length of hospitalization, . . . ethnicity, living situation, and insurance”) of the statistical correlates of mental illness in view (p < 0.001 for marital status)
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