In Sickness or in Health: Not

A new study suggests older women are more likely to be widowed — and more likely to become divorced if they become ill.

Getting older is hard enough. Dealing with the infirmities of age with a spouse is shown to increase health and well-being through the years. New findings presented recently at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America reveal older women who face serious illness also face an increased risk of divorce.

Using the ongoing Health and Retirement Study, researchers looked at data from approximately 2,700 marriages from 1992 through 2010. Study authors looked at outcomes for couples where one partner was over age 50 and developed a serious illness like cancer, lung disease, stroke or heart disease.

Results of the study were surprising — and disturbing:

  • Men were more likely to suffer serious illness.
  • Couples where the male partner became ill were not more likely to end in divorce. Outcomes included widowhood or maintenance of the marriage.
  • Conversely, women who became ill have a higher risk of becoming divorced.
  • Statistically more than 30 percent of the couples studied divorced, 24 percent saw one partner die and the rest remained married.

Although the study did not answer the question about the inequities faced by women, researchers suggest, “Gender norms and social expectations about caregiving may make it more difficult for men to provide care to ill spouses.”

If you are a woman facing medical difficulties and divorce, strong legal help is needed to ensure you maintain your quality of life and medical support after divorce. When you have questions about divorce in Long Island, or throughout New York, call me at Bryan L. Salamone and Associates, P.C.

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