Published: April 29, 2020

Lam, J., Vidal, S., and Baxter, J. (2020). Chronic conditions, couple-level factors and union dissolution, Advances in Life Course Research, doi:10.1016/j.alcr.2020.100340


Jack Lam, Sergi Vidal, and Janeen Baxter


This paper examines the association between chronic illness and union dissolution by examining rich, longitudinal data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. Using competing-risks discrete-time event-history models on longitudinal, dyadic data, we find the risk of union dissolution to be approximately 40 percent higher when either partner reports an illness than in the absence of an illness. We then examine whether the observed associations are mediated by variations in paid work, housework, financial stress and time stress. Financial stress is the factor that contributes most to the indirect associations between dissolution and partner’s health condition, but overall these factors account for only 18.5 percent of the association between chronic illness and relationship dissolution. Our results provide further insight into the factors undermining relationship stability and highlight the importance of reducing financial stress associated with chronic illness.