Study Suggests Divorce More Likely When the Wife Gets Sick

The vows are familiar: for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long we both shall live. While these promises may represent the true intentions of a couple on their wedding day, new research is suggesting that “in sickness” may be a little more difficult than expected for many. A recent study has found that health-related issues can have an impact on the overall happiness of a marital relationship and, in many cases, may lead to divorce. Interestingly, however, the likelihood of divorce seemed to only increase for couples when it was the wife who became serious ill.

Amelia Karraker, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University, and Kenzie Latham, assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, published their research last month in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. The aim of the study, according the authors, was to examine how serious physical illness affected the end of a marriage, either by divorce or widowhood. “The health consequences of marital dissolution are well known,” the team wrote, “but little work has examined the impact of health on the risk of marital dissolution.”

Karraker and Latham looked at data from more than 2,700 marriages with at least one partner over age 50 across an 18 year period, finding that, overall, 32 percent of them ended in divorce while 24 ended with the death of one spouse. Within those numbers, the team was successful in identifying certain patterns associated with the diagnosis of a serious illness. For the purposes of the study, serious illness included cancer, stroke, heart disease, and lung disease for either the husband or wife.

The research showed that serious illness increased the risk of widowhood was roughly equal—about five percent—regardless of which spouse got sick. However, the likelihood of divorce showed an increase of about six percent when it was the wife who was diagnosed. A husband’s illness seemed to have virtually no impact on the likelihood of divorce. The team also identified that divorce was more likely for younger couples, while widowhood was likelier for those who were older.

While it might be tempting to draw conclusions from the numbers, Karraker and Latham’s research did not examine which spouse initiated divorce in any of the cases. Dr. Karraker acknowledged the stress that illness can place on a marriage, but stopped short of speculating that husbands were to blame for increased likelihood of divorce. In fact, she pointed out that women could be just as likely to end the marriage in light of their own illness.

If you live in Illinois and are considering divorce, discussing your options with a qualified lawyer is an important first step. Contact an experienced family law attorney in Orland Park for a free consultation today. We look forward to working with you and helping you create the better future you deserve.