As if married people don’t have enough to worry about, a new study suggests that the divorce of a friend or close relative dramatically increases the chances that you too will divorce.
A research team headed by Rose McDermott of Brown University analyzed three decades of data on marriage, divorce and remarriage collected from thousands of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts.
McDermott and her colleagues found that study participants were 75% more likely to become divorced if a friend is divorced and 33% more likely to end their marriage if a friend of a friend is divorced.
So divorce is contagious…and you can catch the divorce bug from your friends—even from a friend of a friend?
“Approaching the epidemiology of divorce from the perspective of an epidemic may be apt in more ways than one,” McDermott and her colleagues wrote in a forthcoming article in the journal Social Forces. “The contagion of divorce can spread through a social network like a rumor, affecting friends up to two degrees removed.”
Sociologists call the phenomenon “social contagion”—the spread of information, attitudes and behaviors through friends, families and other social networks.