Is Rheumatoid Arthritis a Factor in Divorce? | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis a Factor in Divorce?

At a meeting of Rheumatoid patients, we heard one describe how her spouse is leaving her as a result of her Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis. Everyone in the room gasped as she recounted how her husband told her that he did not want to be her caretaker. However, I’ve read many sad letters with similar stories. Both husbands and wives are shocked and can resent the drastic changes which RA can cause.

Does RA lead to divorce? How often?

Studying Rheumatoid Arthritis and divorce

Sugarland TexasIt’s often stated that there is a link between RA and divorce. Searching Google, there are still some popular articles that were published in the 70’s, 60’s, and even 50’s. If you’ve read much RAW, you may know that some of those 50’s articles have some unpleasant ideas.

Like this prize abstract: “The hypothesis of suppressed hostility as a factor in rheumatoid arthritis is supported by the finding that rheumatoid arthritics are more liable to divorce, but put up with an unsatisfactory marriage longer than those who are free of the disease. This is more striking for males than for females,” Arthritis and Rheumatism.

More modern studies (2009) don’t blame the patients, but do confirm a correlation between a Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis and divorce, with 25% of female patients surveyed identifying RA as a “contributing factor.” Yet, reading the description of RA, you might wonder why RA would have much influence on anyone: “Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that causes joint pain and swelling, commonly in the hands, wrists and knees,” Healthy Aging.

The divorce rate of RA patients is reported to be 70% higher than that of the general population (American Journal of Medicine). However, a 1991 study of over 7,000 rheumatology patients found Rheumatoid Arthritis patients were not more likely to divorce than other rheumatology patients, after “age, sex, population size, and ethnic origin” were controlled for (Journal of Rheumatology). Remarkably, however, RA patients were five times less likely to remarry than people with arthritis/osteoarthritis.

You can find dramatic articles saying RA can lead to divorce, but not much clear-cut study of the subject. Even a partial list of RA issues clearly demonstrates the stress RA can create on marriage:

  1. It’s a shock and disappointment when a spouse can no longer do the things one expected.
  2. A serious illness like RA can be a drain on relationships, finances, schedules, and plans.
  3. The chronic pain of a disease like RA can be a barrier to all kinds of activity, including sex.

What do you think? Does divorce and remarriage differ with RA patients? Does it vary with the severity of the disease or disability? Is it a similar situation to any chronic illness?

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Kelly O'Neill

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked about 12 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over fourteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/

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77 thoughts on “Is Rheumatoid Arthritis a Factor in Divorce?

  • January 4, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    My wife has RA. She is dignosed 3 years ago.
    I am from a background that we believe on arrange marriages.
    I was living abroad when my family actually make the arrangement of my engagement.
    Initially for 2 years we only have telephonic contact then finally i come back and we did the marriage ceremony.

    First week of marriage my wife disclosed that she has joint pain problem. After 2 months of looking different allarming symtoms (knee swelling and intimacy difficulities I finally did her blood tests. Before the results she told me its RA and its normal in woman.

    I was shocked when on first doctor appointment was over. As i finally understand what is RA.

    My wife is doctor and belongs to a family in which her siblings and mother are highly qualified doctors related to medicine and joints.

    Nobody told me in 2 years that she has this problem.
    Now i felt betrayed. I am 32 years old and i really love her untill i know she is selfish.

    I am confused now a days. I tried to avoid arguments. Its just 6 months of my marriage.

    But i felt the pain of betrayal more and more when i have to do tasks that suppose to be done by my wife.

    You can judge me as a bad person. But what should i do.

    Any advise

    • January 31, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      Muhammed, you will not find any wife who is perfect of course. As a person with RA who has experienced a lot of rejection due to the disease, I am sympathetic to her.
      Also, are there any secrets that you have had from her? It does go both ways.
      Even if not, I hope you will think about this and support her in her struggle and develop a happy bond together. Is there a counselor you could talk to – perhaps together to see if you can work through this or decide not to at this early stage.
      Good luck.


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