Divorce more likely when wife is ill
New research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior suggests that marriage is more likely to end in divorce when a wife is ill than when the husband is. The study did not look at which spouse instigated the divorce.
To conduct their study, the researchers at Iowa State University analyzed data on married couples collected between 1992 and 2010 in the Health and Retirement Study. Their analysis included 2,701 marriages where one spouse was at least 51 years old at the start of the 20 years of data collection. Over the period of the study, 32 percent of the marriages ended in divorce, compared with 24 percent that ended in widowhood.
The researchers focused on marriages where one of the spouses had been diagnosed with one of four serious illnesses: cancer, heart disease, lung disease and stroke.
While the onset of illness in the husband was not linked with an increased likelihood of divorce, illness in the wife was linked to a 6 percent higher risk of being divorced before the end of the study period.
The lead researcher on the study said that the data analyzed could not explain their findings, but that illness can stress a marriage in many ways. For instance, the primary caregiver may also have to take on the sole responsibility for supporting the household.