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Divorce is not more likely when wife falls ill

A study which claimed that married couples were more likely to divorce when the wife falls ill has been retracted.

The 2014 study examined data from over 2,000 older couples. They initially claimed that 31 per cent of the couples divorced over a 20 year period. Researchers also said that although more men developed chronic illnesses than women, more marriages ended when the wife got sick.

Upon the study’s publication in the academic Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, lead researcher Amelia Karraker said that women in older marriages were particularly vulnerable. This was because they “are more likely to be widowed, and if they are the ones who become ill, they are more likely to get divorced”.

However, when researchers from Bowling Green State University in Ohio tried to replicate the study’s results, they encountered a problem. There was a mistake in the data which counted couples who stopped participating in the study as divorces. The result of this meant that more divorces were registered than had actually occurred.

Ms Karraker said:

“As soon as we realised we made the mistake, we contacted the [journal] editor and told him what was happening, and said we made a mistake, we accept responsibility for it.”

While she expressed disappointment at the error, she added that “what’s ultimately important is to do good research, and sometimes that requires you to make a correction”.

After the mistake had been corrected, the data indicated that divorce was only more likely if the wife developed heart problems. No other illness showed any significant correlation with divorce.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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