Gray divorce more common when wife falls ill, study finds

A recent study revealed that couples are more likely to divorce if the wife falls ill.

When couples agree to remain together "in sickness and in health," many likely do not consider the serious illnesses from which they may suffer later in life. A recent study revealed that illness is often a factor that leads to divorce among older couples in the United States.

The growing trend of gray divorce is common knowledge these days, as more Americans over 50 have decided their marriage is no longer productive and choose to separate. Now, according to researchers at the University of Michigan, we may have an explanation for some of those separations.

The researchers examined data from over 2,700 marriages over a period of two decades. When the study began, at least one spouse in each marriage was over 50 years of age. The researchers then examined the health of each individual and whether the marriage ended in divorce. Specifically, they determined whether either partner had suffered from:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Stroke

In total, 31 percent of the marriages studied resulted in divorce. In addition, 15 percent of the marriages ended in divorce after the wife became ill.

The researchers concluded that marriages among older Americans are more likely to end in divorce if the wife gets sick, rather than the husband. While the reasons for these results are not known, the researchers speculated that it might have to do with the husbands failing to provide sufficient care for the wife during the illness.

Gray divorce common throughout the country

The phenomenon of so-called gray divorces has been on the rise across the United States in recent decades. According to researchers from the University of Minnesota's Population Center, three times as many people between the ages of 60 and 65 are getting divorced today than in 1990. The numbers are even higher for those over 65 - five times as many people in that age group are now getting divorced.

Of course, when couples who have been married for many years choose to get divorced, the process can be complex. While they may not need to discuss issues such as child custody and child support, property and asset division can be more complicated after a lengthy marriage.

If you are over 50 and thinking about divorcing your spouse, you should speak to a knowledgeable family law attorney before taking further steps. A skilled lawyer will be able to ensure your interests are protected.

Keywords: divorce, illness, gray divorce