Men 6 Times More Likely To Leave A Sick Partner

A new study reveals why men with ill spouses are six times more likely to head for the door.

sick partner

This Love Buzzer has a friend. One year and one day into her marriage, her husband went into the hospital for what was described as a standard procedure. He didn't leave his hospital bed for three months. In fact, he almost died.

Every day of those three months, this woman took the subway back and forth. She stopped in on her way to work; she went home from work, fed the dogs, then went back to the hospital. All while, he was sometimes in a medically induced coma, oftentimes uncommunicative, and rarely lucid. It was a very difficult 92 days. And in that time, she did not once express any inclination to leave him. (She was worn out, but not enough to split.) But that makes perfect sense, according to a new study highlighted on


Co-author Dr. Marc Chamberlain released the results of his study, "Gender Disparity in the Rate of Partner Abandonment in Patients with Serious Medical Illness," this month and says that while divorce within the confines of serious illness, such as cancer or MS, the rates of break ups along the gender divide are staggering. 

Chamberlain says that rate of divorce when the man was the patient was around 2.9 percent, while the number jumped to 20.8 percent when the woman was ill. Yikes. In fact, men have made it so common, this phenomenon even has a name: partner abandonment.

As Chamberlain and co-author Dr. Michael Glanz explained:


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.

While the study focuses primarily on oncology patients, the researchers believe divorce in the midst of serious illness can affect quality of life:

Researchers also measured some health and quality of life outcomes among the patients who separated or divorced. They found that patients used more antidepressants, participated less in clinical trials, had more frequent hospitalizations, were less likely to complete radiation therapy and more likely not to die at home, according to the study.

If there was ever a time to "man up," and we use that term only in extreme situations (but in this instance it seems to be spot-on) it's during the tough times. Fortunately, our friend's marriage was able to withstand the stress and difficulty of brain surgery and its complications. Now if only he'd remember to hang up his towel...