A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is the patient, according to a study that examined the role gender played in so-called “partner abandonment.” The study also found that the longer the marriage the more likely it would remain intact.
The study confirmed earlier research that put the overall divorce or separation rate among cancer patients at 11.6 percent, similar to the population as a whole. However, researchers were surprised by the difference in separation and divorce rates by gender. The rate when the woman was the patient was 20.8 percent compared to 2.9 percent when the man was the patient.
“Female gender was the strongest predictor of separation or divorce in each of the patient groups we studied,” said Marc Chamberlain, M.D., a co-corresponding author and director of the neuro-oncology program at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). Chamberlain is also a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
The study, “Gender Disparity in the Rate of Partner Abandonment in Patients with Serious Medical Illness,” was published in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal Cancer. The other corresponding author is Michael Glanz, M.D., of the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
Why men leave a sick spouse can be partly explained by their lack of ability, compared to women, to make more rapid commitments to being caregivers to a sick partner and women’s better ability to assume the burdens of maintaining a home and family, the study authors said. …