Until Death — or Sickness — Do We Part…

A recent study reveals new risks for married women who become seriously ill over the age of 50.

In a review of national data from the Health and Retirement study, researchers from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis evaluated more than 2,000 marriages where one partner over age 50 suffered a significant illness like cancer, stroke, lung or heart disease. The results were surprising.

The study found serious illness is a risk factor for divorce for women – but not men. Some key points of the research include the following:

  • Previous research has consistently held married persons enjoy a higher level of health and feeling of well-being. Correspondingly, for older persons, being widowed or divorced can initiate a decline in health.
  • Incidence of disease increased among couples studied and men are more likely to fall ill.
  • Of the marriages studied, 31 percent ended in divorce, 24 percent ended in the death of a spouse and the remaining couples remained married.
  • In couples where the woman became ill, the marriage was more likely to end in divorce.
  • Older men have a greater likelihood of remarriage than older women.

Co-author Amelia Karraker noted “We found that women are doubly vulnerable to marital dissolution in the face of illness.” The study did not delve into the reasons ill women are more likely to become divorced, but suggested the cause may lie in gender roles related to care-giving.

The study sounds a warning to women in later life who fall ill. If facing illness and divorce, retain experienced legal counsel in Connecticut to ensure your divorce includes financial agreements to preserve your economic status and address long-term medical concerns.