Divorce: a risk to business

1 Between one-third and half of adults experiencing divorce and separation report levels of mental distress high enough to be deemed at risk of depression.1

2 Divorce is second only to bereavement as a risk to mental health. The graph below also shows that divorcing adults are at risk of mental ill-health for a longer period of time than those newly widowed/bereaved.2

*The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) is a psychometric screening tool to  identify common psychiatric conditions. Higher scores signal poorer wellbeing.

3 A major 2016 survey of relationships by Relate revealed almost one fifth (18%) of couples were in a state of distress at any one time.3

Relationship status of adults aged 25 to 64 (Source: ONS and Relate)

4 From Thriving at work The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers:
“Employers can also play a more significant role in supporting employees through major life events which may include bereavement, problem debt, and relationship breakdown, which can cause or exacerbate mental health conditions.”4

5 Divorcing men are particularly at risk. Samaritans have described a causal association between relationship breakdown and suicide and cite research that found the risk of suicide amongst divorced men was almost three times that of married men.5

6 The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says 42% of marriages end in divorce with the highest number of those divorces taking place among both men and women aged 45 to 49.6 Over 90% of divorces happen to those of working age while the employment for married men stood at 92.7% between April and June 2017.7

7 In October 2017, change management specialists Boudica & Eir published a highly revealing survey entitled: HR Implications of Managing Divorce Wellbeing in the Workplace.8 The company took the innovative step of interviewing a sample of men and women – all having been divorced or separated – to get a deeper understanding of the impacts that separation and divorce can have on person’s job security and career progression. Below is a summary of the survey’s key findings:

  • 61% said separation/divorce contributed to changing jobs/leaving the workplace.
  • 24% said they were pushed or managed out of the business, as a result of their journey.
  • 71% said they left their jobs within a year of separation/divorce.
  • 62% said they were let down by their employer, with 41% feeling not at all supported.
  • 37% said they were able to work flexibly, but only 4% needed that permanently.
  • 26% said they would have bene ted from dedicated divorce wellbeing support.

When respondents did feel supported, there were more positive outcomes for employers:

  • 30% said their employer saved money, by not having to replace them.
  • 13% said their employer saved operational costs, by helping them maintain performance.
  • 41% said their employer retained an engaged, inspirational colleague.
  • 75% said they got through the journey quicker, in better shape, becoming truly resilient.


  1. Partnership dissolution: how does it a ect income, employment and well-being? – Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) http://bit.ly/11k7BxP
  2. ibid
  3. ONS Statistical Bulletin – Working and workless households in the UK
  4. Page 35: Thriving at work The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers (Oct 2017)
  5. http://www.samaritans.org/about-us/our-research/research-report-men-suicide-and-society
  6. ONS: Divorces in England and Wales: 2016
  7. ONS Statistical Bulletin – Working and workless households in the UK]
  8. Boudica & Eir’s Wellbeing in the Workplace Survey 2017