Marriages wrecked by divorcees in the office

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The Independent Online

It's not only colds that can be caught from fellow workers – divorce is contagious too, according to new research.

Researchers have found that the divorce rate is linked to the number of fellow workers who are divorced.

"The higher the proportion of divorced and single individuals there are at an individual's workplace, the higher the risk of marital disruption. The core finding is that divorces are contagious," said Dr Yvonne Aberg who carried out research based on the workplace experiences of nearly 40,000 men and women.

The researchers also found that both men and women are 75 per cent more likely to divorce if they work in an office populated mainly by people of the opposite sex and of the same age. It was discovered too that the more single people working in an office alongside married colleagues, the higher the divorce rate.

In the research, the first of its kind, analysts looked at the marital experiences of workers and how the likelihood of divorce was influenced by divorced people at work.

It is known that work plays an important part in the beginning of a romance, but this is the first evidence that work also plays a key role in the end of relationships.

According to the research, based on the employees of 1,500 companies in Sweden, people interact with their co-workers for long periods at work and often socialise with their colleagues. They can also be heavily influenced by them.

"Individuals can act as triggers and influence each other's decisions to divorce. In this way, divorce may be contagious and spread throughout the workplace. News of a co-worker's divorce can be a trigger that initiates a marriage-evaluation process than may in the end result in another marital disruption," said Dr Aberg.

The researchers, who report their findings at an international sociological conference this week, say that another workplace spur to divorce is the availability of what they call "spousal alternatives".

"An individual is about 70 to 75 per cent more likely to divorce if co-workers are of the opposite sex and of appropriate age," said a report of the research. "This result strongly suggests the availability of spousal alternatives increases divorce risk."

The researchers did find that there was one way of reducing the risk of divorce: "If the spouse works in the same workplace the risk of divorce is dramatically reduced," said Dr Aberg.

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