It has long been known that women are more likely than men to suffer financially following a divorce. Although the number of women who are unable to support themselves after a split has declined in recent years, a new study indicates that a divorce may have long-term repercussions on women's health as a result of their inability to afford health insurance after separating from their spouse.

In the study, which was completed through an examination of more than a decade of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the researchers compared the health insurance levels of women both before and after a divorce. They found that about 16 percent of women lose their health insurance coverage within six months of a divorce, and go without it for at least two years. Because that is as long as the data was able to measure, it is likely that many women lack insurance coverage for a much longer length of time.

The study also found that women who had been previously covered by their husband's insurance plan were at the highest risk of losing coverage following a divorce. Because men are less likely to be covered under their wife's plan, they do not experience the same risk.

But even women who are not insured through their husband prior to a split are less likely to be able to afford insurance coverage, the study shows. This is because women, especially those with low incomes, are more likely to suffer a significant decline in economic well-being after a divorce.

Source: Public Radio International, "Research shows after divorce, women more likely than men to lose health insurance," Feb. 17, 2012