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Couples more likely to divorce if wife becomes ill

Arizona residents may find it interesting that a new study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found married couples are more likely to divorce if the wife becomes ill. The study, conducted by researchers at Purdue University and Iowa State University, also revealed that a husband's illness is not associated with an increase in divorce.

Researchers gathered the information by tracking the impact of illness on divorce and widowhood in 2,701 marriages listed in the Health Retirement Study, which was conducted from 1992 through 2010. All the couples had at least one spouse above the age of 51. The statistics showed that a wife's illness increased a couple's risk of divorce by 6 percent, but a husband's illness did not. Illness in either spouse increased the chance of widowhood.

The study did not pinpoint which party initiated the divorces. One theory offered by researchers was that some wives were unhappy with the care they received from their husbands, who have not been as heavily socialized to be caregivers as women have. Another theory was that men were more easily overwhelmed by caring for a sick spouse and the responsibility of running a household.

Caregiver experts suggest that couples openly communicate their needs and feelings to each other when they are dealing with an illness. Full-time caregivers are known to be vulnerable to health problems, depression and substance abuse.

Those who file for divorce while one spouse is seriously ill may wish to make special provisions for medical care and expenses. A family law attorney can explain all the options available and help a client in negotiating a settlement agreement that takes the illness into account.

Source: Deseret News, "Divorce more likely when wife has serious illness," Lois M. Collins, March 6, 2015

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