On your wedding day, when the officiant asks if you will take care of your spouse in sickness and health, you say yes, anything for your future spouse-to-be. You’re not looking down the road at a future possibly rife with illness and grief and, as researchers recently found out, divorce.
A group from the University of Michigan found that as couples age and get more ill, rates of divorce spike above the numbers for healthy couples of the same age range. Specifically, the risk for divorce is higher for older couples when the wife, not the husband, gets sick. Overall the numbers are high — 31% of couples dealing with chronic disease end in divorce. Other studies put the number closer to 75%.
The Michigan researchers looked through 20 years of data on 2,717 married couples with at least one of the partners over 50 at the start of the study. The researchers also looked for diseases like cancer, heart disease, lung disease and stroke, and how they impacted the marriages.
As for reasons why the men usually wuss out of the marriage during times of their wives’ distressful illness? Some believe that social expectations for caretaking make men feel less qualified for the job. On the flipside, it’s also possible that women don’t feel like their husbands are giving them adequate support, and they decide they would prefer to rely on friends and family, according to the study.
Divorce More Likely When Wife Falls Ill (Time)