Gender Disparities in Partner Abandonment Following Life-threatening Diagnoses

Women who have been diagnosed recently with cancer or multiple sclerosis are six times more likely to be separated or divorced than their recently diagnosed male counterparts, according to a study in Cancer.

Women who have been diagnosed recently with cancer or multiple sclerosis are six times more likely to be separated or divorced than their recently diagnosed male counterparts, according to a study in

Cancer

.

To reach this conclusion, Marc Chamberlain and colleagues enrolled 515 patients at 3 medical centers beginning in 2001 and followed them for 5 years.

During the study, 11.6% of the patients either divorced or separated, a rate similar to that found in the general population. However, the rate was 20.8% when the woman was the patient and just 2.9% when the patient was a man.

The scientists also detected correlations between age and length of marriage and the risk of divorce or separation. Older women, it turned out, were more likely to experience a break-up, although longer marriages tended to remain intact.

Regardless of gender, divorced or separated patients were found to have an increased reliance on antidepressants, less frequent participation in clinical trials, more frequent hospitalizations, and failure to complete radiation therapy.

Newswise

“Female gender was the strongest predictor of separation or divorce in each of the patient groups we studied,” Chamberlain, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told .

The authors speculated that men were more likely to leave a sick spouse because they were less willing or able to commit to being a caregiver for a sick partner and that women were more able to assume the task of maintaining home and family.

“We recommend that providers be sensitive to early suggestions of marital discord in couples affected by a serious medical illness, especially when the woman is the affected spouse and it occurs early in the marriage. Early identification and psychosocial intervention might reduce the frequency of divorce and separation, and improve quality of life and quality of care,” concluded the authors.

Dr. Laffel is the Sr. VP of Clinical Affairs at Practice Fusion.