Ending a relationship is rarely easy for anyone, but it may be harder for older women. A Chinese, Finnish and German study, comparing the use of antidepressants among men and women, found that women who are older than fifty have a harder time when their relationships break up than do men.

To come to this conclusion, the researchers analyzed the data on 220,000 Finnish residents between the ages of 50 and 70 whose relationships from 2000-2014 ended either because of death, divorce or non-marital separation.

Although both sexes were more likely to increase their antidepressant use during this difficult period, it was more significant for women.

The researchers found antidepressant use increased for partners of both genders four years before the end of a relationship and accelerated after the death, divorce or breakup. Although both sexes were more likely to increase their antidepressant use during this difficult period, it was more significant for women. For example, the use of antidepressants increased by 7 percent in women prior to their divorce and 6 percent before a break-up, compared to 5 percent and 3 percent for men.

Within a year, antidepressant levels went back to normal levels for men, but it was different story for women. While their use tailed off only slightly immediately after the end of a relationship, it increased again a year after and onward, the study results showed.

“Our findings suggest that the adverse mental health effects of divorce fall more heavily on women whereas the beneficial mental health effects of re-partnering are weaker among them,” Nina Metsä-Simola, a lecturer at the University of Helsinki and co-first author of the study, said in a press release.

The authors suggest that this could be the result of gender differences in roles within families, as well as differences in responsibilities and economic status. For example, women may assume greater responsibilities in managing relationships between blended families, such as those with their new partner's children — and this can undermine emotional wellbeing.

Regardless of your gender, if you're on antidepressants and considering reducing or even going off your medication, you need to first consult with your healthcare provider to be sure you're not quitting prematurely, or to plan for the best way to slowly reduce your dose.

Meanwhile, there are lifestyle changes that can help lift your mood. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests:

  • Make an effort to be physically active. Just 30 minutes a day of walking can boost your mood.
  • Maintain a regular bedtime and wake-up time.
  • Eat regular, healthy meals.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones; do what you can as you can. Decide what must get done and what can wait.
  • Connect with and reconnect with people. Talk with those you trust about how you are feeling.
  • Delay making important decisions.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol, nicotine or drugs, including medications not prescribed for you.

The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.