Intended for healthcare professionals


Doctors and divorce

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 19 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h791
  1. Amanda Howe, professor of primary care
  1. 1Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK
  1. Amanda.Howe{at}

Behind every statistic lies a human story

In The BMJ this week a study (doi:10.1136/bmj.h706) by Ly and colleagues shows that doctors in the United States have a comparable or lower risk of divorce than other health related professionals, and the general population.1 The researchers, however, admit the limitations of this large cross sectional study—as with many such studies there is no qualitative component to help explore the reasons for these figures; no data on the quality of the marriage, which might explain the findings; and no data on medical specialties or whether divorces are more common when both partners are medical doctors. The authors did find that divorce is more likely among female doctors than among male doctors, and that for women, the risks increased with hours worked.

Behind each of these statistics lies a human story, which in the case of divorce is usually one of broken dreams, personal damage (including to children), and material loss. One in four doctors’ marriages ends in divorce, which is hardly a cause for celebration; and nurses fare even worse, at one in three failed marriages.

Societal changes …

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