Study finds illnesses affect the risk of divorce

Date: Jun 04, 2014

Till death do us part - the classic marriage vow where couples promise to stay together irrelevant of each other's health.

However, a new study from the US has found the risk of divorce among older married couples rises when the wife becomes seriously ill.

The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, alongside the Indiana University and Purdue University Indianapolis, analysed 20 years of data from over 2,700 marriages. Researchers examined how the onset of four serious illnesses - cancer, heart problems, lung disease and stroke - affected marriages.

The results revealed 31 per cent of those marriages ended in divorce and it was more likely that the marriage would dissolve if the wife developed an illness.

Amelia Karraker, a researcher at the Institute, said married women with a serious health issue could find themselves dealing with the stress of a divorce as well based on this research.

"We found that women are doubly vulnerable to marital dissolution in the face of illness," she said.

"They are more likely to be widowed, and if they are the ones who become ill, they are more likely to get divorced."

It was suggested that one reason why this was the case is that the gender norms and social expectations may make it more difficult for men to provide care to ill spouses, rather than vice versa. As well as this, as women tend to live longer than men, so there are more options for a divorced man than divorced women.

However, Ms Karraker said the data did not show who had initiated the divorce. 

"But it's important to keep in mind that in most cases, it's women who do so," she said.

"So it could be that when women become ill and their husbands are not doing a very good job caring for them, they would rather that he just go and they rely on friends and family who will take care of them."

The research team concluded by stating that government and support services should be put in place for spousal caregivers, which could reduce strain and prevent divorce at an older age.

A divorce is a difficult time for all involved, especially when the circumstances aren't the best. This is why it is important to seek the best legal advice to ensure the process is as stress-free as possible.

Craddock Murray Neumann has a team of specialist divorce lawyers that can help give you all the options available after the break-up of a marriage.