According to a new study, divorce is six per cent more likely to occur if the wife falls ill than if she were to remain healthy.
Researchers monitored 2,701 married couples over almost two decades, with one of the partners in each couple required to be aged at least 51 years old.
At the end of the study, it was found that 32 per cent of the marriages had ended in divorce while 24 per cent ended with one of the partners becoming a widow or widower.
Divorce was more common among younger couples in the study, but a husband’s health was observed to have no impact on the likelihood of a marriage ending in divorce.
Dr Amelia Karraker, of Iowa State University, led the study and stated that illness can often be the cause of problems for couples, including the financial difficulties associated with time off work or care arrangements, which can then lead to the legal end of a marriage.
Dr Karraker said: “There is a difference between feeling too sick to make dinner and needing someone to actually feed you. That’s something that can really change the dynamics within a marriage.”
The quality of care given by a partner is also a major factor in why a divorce could be sought by a couple.
Dr Karraker argues that women are more likely to be dissatisfied with the care they receive from their husbands because men (particularly older men) have not been socialised to provide care for others in the same way that women usually have been.
She added: “Life or death experiences may cause people to re-evaluate what is important in their lives.
“It could be that women are saying, ‘You’re doing a bad job of caring for me or I wasn’t happy with the relationship to begin with, and I’d rather be alone than in a bad marriage.”’
The study appeared in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour.