A MAN is seven times as likely to leave his wife when she becomes seriously ill as a woman is to abandon her husband, say researchers. The finding comes from a study into how more than 500 married couples coped with the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness such as cancer or multiple sclerosis. The divorce rate was no higher than average. But closer inspection revealed that the marriage was much more likely to end when the patient was a woman. In other words, a woman is better at standing by her man than vice versa. Of the 23 divorces in the multiple sclerosis patients, 22 occurred in couples in which the woman was ill, and just one in a marriage where the man was the patient. Similarly, 18 of the 23 brain tumour patients whose marriage ended were women, as were 13 out of the 14 with other cancers, the U.S. study found. Overall, 21 per cent of marriages in which the wife was ill ended, compared with just 3 per cent in which the husband was the patient. The researchers, from Washington University in Seattle, said it appeared that women are more committed to staying with someone through thick and thin. They added: 'Some studies have suggested men are less able to undertake a care-giving role and assume the burdens of home and family maintenance compared with women. 'A woman becomes willing sooner in the marriage to commit to the burdens of having a sick spouse. The analysis also showed the impact a broken relationship can have on health. Patients who separated or divorced spent more time in hospital, took more anti-depressants, and were less likely to finish courses of gruelling treatments such as radiotherapy. DM