When women face terminal illness, they are more likely to get divorced. However, the same tendency does not occur when husbands fall sick. Many people have heard of studies that show that men's health benefits from marriage. Married men tend to live longer. Presumably, they receive care from their wives when they are sick. Wives also tend to encourage healthier lifestyles and make all those preventative doctor appointments that men might otherwise skip.
Companion studies show that married women do not enjoy the same longevity benefits as men. In fact, a 107-year-old woman from the Bronx says that her secret to a long life is never having married.
Not only does marriage benefit men's health but it also remains a source of support if their health does fail. And not only does marriage put a strain on women's health but it is more likely to dissolve when things become serious.
A handful of studies agree: women who face cancer, heart problems, lung disease, and stroke increased women’s divorce risk. Stroke and heart problems were more likely to result in divorce than cancer or lung disease. When men were affected by any of the conditions, their divorce risk did not rise at all.
Why are women losing their marriages after losing their health? And why is there a gender disparity here? There are a few possible reasons.
It could be that since women are generally the caretakers, men lose out when their wives are too sick to look after them as they once did. On the other hand, it could be that men need their wives when they are sick, but women do not necessarily need their husbands.
Women tend to rely on a network of friends and family members for support, while men often depend solely on their wives. It could be that wives stick with severely ill men because they feel needed.
The good news is that many marriages are mutually strengthened when either partner gets sick. It is not that all men leave their sick wives: many show up stronger than ever.