With research showing the rate more than doubling for people 50 and older since 1990, many couples in Pennsylvania who might have stayed together in earlier generations may be splitting up. Researchers say several factors may account for this increase, including higher expectations for marriage, more economic independence for women and longer life spans. However, divorce in this age group also carries risks for physical, emotional and financial health.

Some older people already suffer from chronic health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. The stress of a divorce can worsen those conditions. Anxiety and depression can also cause insomnia which in turn may lead to lack of exercise. Men may experience more isolation since their wives might have been in charge of the couple’s social network. Women might have spent years at home with children and thus saved less for retirement, so they are more financially vulnerable.

Experts say not all divorce outcomes in this age group are negative. Older people may be energized by new interests and relationships after a divorce. It may also be less stressful than remaining in a relationship that is toxic or abusive. However, older divorced people should take precautions such as making sure they get out of the house regularly and see a doctor if necessary.

Couples who have spent years together may prefer negotiating a settlement instead of litigation. This age group is less likely to have minor children at home although if they do or the children are in college, they may want to negotiate financial issues that are outside the scope of child support, such as how they will pay for their education. Negotiation may allow the couple to reach an agreement for property division that leaves them both with some financial security afterwards.