Marriages more likely to end when wife is ill, studies say

When women in Illinois develop cancer or other illnesses, the likelihood that they will get a divorce increases. According to a study that appeared in 2015 in “The Journal of Health and Social Behavior,” there is no similar increase in divorce risk when men become ill.

Other studies support this. One study, conducted by researchers at Purdue University and Iowa State University, examined how more than 2,700 marriages were affected by lung disease, heart disease, cancer and stroke. Women who developed heart disease or who had strokes were at even greater risk for divorce than those with lung disease and cancer. The same effects were not seen when men became ill.

According to one sociologist, a reason for this disparity may be that women tend to provide more caregiving in a relationship, and men tend to leave when their wives become too ill to continue doing so. Women also tend to have more support from friends and family than men do. However, most of these studies are carried out with older age groups, and it is possible that younger couples who are not as bound to traditional gender roles might break out of this pattern. Furthermore, there is more equitable caregiving in case of illness in same-sex couples.

Illness is one factor that may need to be taken into account during divorce negotiations. For example, if one parent is seriously ill, this may affect child custody negotiations. Maintaining health insurance may be a priority for a spouse who is ill. Depending on how long the marriage has lasted and other factors, if the spouse who is ill cannot work, the other spouse may be required to pay alimony. Couples may prefer to negotiate this divorce settlement instead of going to litigation since it may be quicker and less expensive, and it might leave the couple more in control of the final agreement.