What do divorce and the flu have in common?

People in Maryland may have seen an interesting new report from the Pew Research Center about divorce in the United States. It turns out that the likelihood of a married person getting a divorce shoots up dramatically if someone close to that person also gets a divorce. In other words, much like the flu, divorce is apparently contagious.

According to the study, people were 75 percent more likely to get a divorce when a friend or close relative also got a divorce. Even more interesting is that if even a friend of a friend got a divorce, this could result in a 33 percent greater likelihood that the person in the study would get a divorce. Part of this has to do with what researchers call "social contagion," which is the spread of information, ideas and beliefs through social networks. When marital relationships break down, the fallout could have a negative effect, either directly or indirectly, on the relationships of friends and other social connections.

Now that people are more interconnected than ever through online social networks, the odds are that many of our Maryland readers know someone who has gone through a divorce recently. This person may have a difficult time while going through their divorce, but supportive friends and relatives can help people overcome their emotional tribulations much more quickly than people with fewer supportive social connections.

If people do decide to get a divorce, friends how have also been through that situation could be an excellent resource. They've gone through the divorce legal issues and emotional disputes, and can probably provide some good advice to people in the same situation.

Source: Pew Research Center, "Is divorce contagious?," Rich Morin, Oct. 21, 2013