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‘Till Sickness Do Us Part’

iStock/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Marriage vows include the phrase “In sickness and in health,” but with divorce rates reportedly climbing for couples over the age of 50, researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research decided to examine if a major illness could be partly to blame.

The researchers focused on healthy couples in 2,717 marriages over 20 years where both spouses were healthy at the start of the study.

The researchers discovered that gender played a role in whether the marriage survived an illness.  They discovered if the wife became ill, the chance of a split increased, but that was not the case if the husband got sick.

According to the study, 15 percent of the marriages ended in divorce when the wife developed a chronic illness.  The couple’s risk of divorce doubled if she developed lung or heart disease.

There was no significant increase when a man became ill.

As for why marriages are at greater risk when the wife becomes ill, study researcher Amelia Karraker said in a statement, “Gender norms and social expectations about caregiving may make it more difficult for men to provide care to ill spouses.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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