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In sickness and in health? Maybe not

Last week we discussed divorce trends among the young and old. While these numbers give us a better understanding of how many people are divorcing, it doesn’t explain why people are doing so. The ‘why’ of divorce is a much trickier question because it varies from couple to couple.

The number of possible reasons behind divorce may be as large as the number of actual divorces, since every marriage has its own set of unique circumstances. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped researchers from trying to figure out why certain age groups are divorcing.

Take, for example, a new study that looked at the interplay of divorce and illness. The study followed nearly 3,000 couples during the span of 20 years. In each couple, at least one individual was over 50 when the study started. By the end of the study, 31 percent of these couples divorced.

The interesting part about this study is that researchers looked for diseases such as lung disease, heart disease, strokes and cancer. They wanted to see how these illnesses impacted the marriages. They discovered that when a wife got a serious illness, divorce was more common than if a husband got sick. The reason isn’t very clear, but researchers did have some ideas as to why this happens.  One theory is that when a wife gets sick, her husband may not perform the role of a caregiver very well, forcing the wife to rely on other family members or friends.

Divorce late in life, especially if serious illness is involved, can lead to concerns about financial stability. In this case it is very important that retirement accounts and insurance policies are discussed during the divorce process to ensure that an individual has the funds they need to cover current and future medical and care needs.

Source: LiveScience, "When Wives Get Sick, Risk of Divorce Rises, Study Says," Martta Kelly, May 1, 2014

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