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Emotional Stress and Traffic Accidents: The Impact of Separation and Divorce

Lagarde, Emmanuel*†; Chastang, Jean-François*†; Gueguen, Alice*†; Coeuret-Pellicer, Mireille*†; Chiron, Mireille‡; Lafont, Sylviane‡

doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000142140.77194.ad
Original Article

Background: Personal responses to stressful life events are suspected of increasing the risk of serious traffic accidents.

Methods: We analyzed data from a French cohort study (the GAZEL cohort), including a retrospective driving behavior questionnaire, from 13,915 participants (10,542 men age 52–62 years and 3373 women age 47–62 years in 2001). Follow-up data covered 1993–2000. Hazard ratios for serious accidents (n = 713) were computed by Cox's proportional hazard regression with time-dependent covariates. Separate analyses were also performed to consider only at-fault accidents.

Results: Marital separation or divorce was associated with an increased risk of a serious accident (all serious accidents: hazard ratio 2.9, 95% confidence interval = 1.7–5.0; at-fault accidents: 4.4, 2.3–8.3). The impact of separation and divorce did not differ according to alcohol consumption levels. Other life events associated with increased risk of serious accident were a child leaving home (all accidents: 1.2, 0.97–1.6; at-fault accidents: 1.5, 1.1–2.1), an important purchase (all accidents: 1.4, 1.1–1.7; at-fault accidents: 1.6, 1.2–2.1), and hospitalization of the partner (all accidents: 1.4, 1.1–2.0).

Conclusion: This study suggests that recent separation and divorce are associated with an increase in serious traffic accidents.

From the *INSERM U88, Saint-Maurice, France; †Institut Fédératif de Recherche 69, France; and ‡UMRETTE-INRETS, Bron, France.

Submitted 20 August 2003; final version accepted 29 June 2004.

This project was funded by Renault, Electricité de France, Gaz de France and Fondation MAIF.

Correspondence: Emmanuel Lagarde, INSERM U88, 14, rue du Val d'Osne, 94415 Saint-Maurice Cedex, France. E-mail: emmanuel.lagarde@st-maurice.inserm.fr.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.