ISU Study: Sick Wife Is One Major Risk Factor for Divorce

A new surprising study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, reveals that one of the major risk factors for divorce occurs when the wife in the marriage becomes seriously ill.

Study Shows Higher Rate of Divorce Among Couples When Wife is Sick

Researchers at Iowa State University were curious about the adage, “in sickness and in health,” in regard to the truth of the pledge made during marriage vows. As such, a study was conducted that analyzed divorce rates among couples in which either spouse had been diagnosed with an illness characterized as serious. The results were surprising: In marriages where the wife was sick -- as opposed to relationships in which both partners were healthy -- the rate of divorce was six times higher. When the husband fell seriously ill, the rate of divorce was no higher than it was among partnerships in which both spouses were in good health. It is unknown whether the husband or the wife initiated the divorce in relationships where the wife was sick.

The study was conducted over a 20-year time period and analyzed 2,701 marriages. Of those, 32 percent ended in divorce, and 24 percent ended when one spouse died. The illnesses the study focused on were heart attack, stroke, cancer and lung disease.

Sickness Adds Stress to a Marriage

There’s no doubt that a traumatic event or illness can add stress to a marriage, which may be one of the reasons why divorce rates are higher when the wife in the marriage battles a serious health problem. For example, being too sick to work and contribute financially can add economic stress to a relationship, and the healthy spouse may feel overburdened by having to be the sole financial provider and caregiver. What’s more, researchers from the study say that some women who were sick may have initiated the divorce over feelings of inadequate care on the parts of their husbands.

What to Do if You and Your Spouse are Contemplating Divorce

Being sick or being married to a sick spouse can be stressful for both of you -- one thing that can add greatly to that stress is the prospect of getting divorced. If you suspect that your spouse is considering divorce or if you’re contemplating divorce yourself, refer to our divorce blog on tips for communication, financial survival, choosing an attorney and more.

If you’re ready to get started on filing your divorce today, don’t hesitate to meet with a lawyer. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we can start reviewing your case today. Call us at 425-460-0550 to learn more now.

Molly B. Kenny
Founder and Principal Divorce Attorney
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