New scientific research from Brown University finds that divorce can be socially contagious. Researchers concluded that if a friend divorces, your chances of getting divorced jump by 75 percent.

According to the British Daily Mail newspaper, researchers found an effect they describe as “divorce clustering” among groups of friends. Once a couple within a friendship group divorces, it can compel other couples to examine and question their own relationships. The reflection can cause a ripple effect of divorces.

Shrinking the Social Stigma

Another effect a friend’s divorce has upon the friendship group: it diminishes the social stigma attached to a break-up, even when those marriages have children involved.

Divorce can spread “like a disease,” according to researcher Rose McDermott. It spreads among friends as well as among family members and even co-workers.

McDermott and colleagues from Harvard University and the University of California analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study, which tracked more than 12,000 people in the Massachusetts city since 1948.

Breaking Down the Odds

While a divorce in a circle of friends can drive up the chances of divorce among the other friends by 75 percent, a divorced co-worker can increase the chances of a permanent split by 55 percent, while a divorced sibling makes a person 22 percent more likely to divorce.

McDermott says one way to stop the spread of the divorce “disease” is to be supportive of married friends and of their unions. In a statement from Brown University, McDermott said, “Paying attention to the health of your friends’ relationships can inadvertently strengthen your own marriage.”

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