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Household Income Takes a Hit After Cancer Diagnosis in Spouse

Household income drops as much as 9 percent, new research finds

couple paying bills

WEDNESDAY, May 3, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Family income can take a big hit when a wife or husband cares for a spouse with cancer, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Health Economics.

Based on data from working-age couples in Canada, average household income declined between 5 and 9 percent, the researchers found. A man's earnings fall 3.5 percent and a woman's up to 6 percent after a spouse's cancer diagnosis.

There are two ways household income shrinks, the investigators said. "One is that the person who is diagnosed might not be able to work because they are getting treatment or they're too sick to work. The second is what happens to their spouse: Does the spouse work more to make up for the lost income or does the spouse also reduce his or her labor supply in order to take care of the spouse that is diagnosed with cancer?" study coauthor Vincent Pohl, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at the University of Georgia in Athens, asked in a university news release.

"If you think about disability insurance, it's a function of an individual's inability to work," Pohl said. "It doesn't take into account that family members might have to take care of an individual and therefore might also lose their job or reduce their working hours and thus their income." He said policymakers need to consider how to protect "not just individuals from the consequences of getting sick, but their entire family."

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