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Study: Link between illness in older women and divorce

We all know that the illness or incapacity of a spouse can place a strain on a marriage. Now, a new university study has found that older couples have an increased likelihood of divorce if the wife becomes seriously ill.

Researchers at the University of Michigan examined date from the Health and Retirement Study. That data covered more than 2,700 marriages over the course of two decades. In all cases, one spouse had suffered a stroke or had cancer, lung disease or heart problems. All of the couples had at least one spouse who was 50 years old when the data began being collected.

The study found that nearly one-third of the couples divorced. Further, divorces were more common when the woman was the one who was ill than when the man was.

This information, as one researcher noted, is further evidence that more sources of support are needed for spousal caregivers. This, she noted, will help relieve some of the stress placed on people who find themselves caring for an ill spouse in their later years and perhaps decrease the divorce rate among senior citizens.

While the findings are interesting, some key questions remain upon which one can only speculate. The study did not determine whether it was the husband or wife who filed for divorce. However, more often, women are the ones who take the step. So, why would a seriously ill woman file for divorce?

One researcher noted that men are usually not perceived as caregivers and therefore, may have a difficult time caring for an ill wife. Therefore, the woman may women decide she is better off with other family members or friends who can better care for her. She also noted that divorced men have an easier time finding a new mate than divorced women do.

Divorce is stressful under the best of circumstances. However, when one spouse is seriously ill, going through a divorce may further harm that person's health. Obviously, the best solution is for the couple to seek the help of an outside caregiver if the task is too much for the spouse. Marital counseling may also help the couple work through the guilt, frustration and anger felt by both of them. If those solutions fail, an experienced Texas family law attorney can help a spouse who wants to end the marriage make the process as painless as possible.

Source: University Herald, "Divorce Rates in Older Couples Higher When Wives Fall Sick, Study" Stephen Adkins, May. 02, 2014

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