A new study in the US seems to suggest so. When researchers looked at the onset of serious illness in marriages, they found that if the wife becomes sick, a divorce is more likely to ensue than if the husband falls ill.

The researchers, from three different universities, looked at data over 20 years from 27 017 marriages and how divorce rates are affected by the onset of either: cancer, heart problems, lung disease or stroke. They only looked at cases where spouses were older than 50.

The scientists don’t know exactly why men are less likely to follow the “in sickness and in health” rule, but they believe that gender roles may come into play.

“Gender norms and social expectations about caregiving may make it more difficult for men to provide care to ill spouses,” said study researcher Amelia Karraker in a statement. “And because of the imbalance in marriage markets, especially in older ages, divorced men have more choices among prospective partners than divorced women.

“We did not have information on who initiated divorce in this study. But it’s important to keep in mind that in most cases, it’s women who do so. So it could be that when women become ill and their husbands are not doing a very good job caring for them, they would rather that he just go and they rely on friends and family who will take care of them.”