Two researchers from Iowa State University and the University of Indianapolis have released the findings of a study funded by the US National Institute on Aging. Their data demonstrates that once a married partner over the age of 50 has contracted a serious illness, 33% of marriages will result in divorce, while 24% will result in widowhood. The study also found that a marriage is six percent more likely to result in divorce if the wife is diagnosed with a serious illness. However, cases in which the husband takes ill did not appear to be a significant factor in contributing to the marriage ending in divorce.
Observations in the study were drawn from nearly 3,000 participants. Some of the serious illnesses which were observed were in the categories of cancer (except skin cancer), heart disease, lung disease and stroke. While serious or chronic illness can place a strain on marriages, and cause spouses to re-evaluate their lives, there were no causative links uncovered as to why the occurrence of divorce increased when it is the wife rather than the husband who suffers from a serious, or chronic medical condition.
The study provides information about the strain that chronic health conditions can place on some relationships. People may typically assume that caring for a partner or loved one with a chronic condition will come naturally. However, in reality, caring for a chronically ill loved one can be hard, exhausting and frustrating work.
Revelations Surface when Illness is Diagnosed
It may be speculated that the husband cannot adapt to the role of care provider, or that the wife may feel that the level of care she is receiving is subpar causing her to potentially question whether she was happy with the relationship to begin with. One partner, or both, may then have reason to consider being alone rather than in an unsatisfying marriage. Research also suggests that there is an elevated risk for depression associated with illness. Furthermore, depression can result in a person suffering from less access to beneficial social relationships, which in turn can place additional stress on the marriage.
While the study did not offer any conclusive data to prove that wives are more likely to remain married to their medically compromised or chronically ill spouse than husbands are, it did uncover a disparity in divorce rates when the challenge of a seriously ill or chronically ill wife is introduced into the partnership of marriage. With the variety of stressful and unfortunate life occurrences that some couples must contend with, it is inevitable that some marriages will conclude in divorce.
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