The caregiver effect wins out over the added worker effect when Canadian are diagnosed with cancer, research from Statistics Canada suggests.

It’s to be expected that cancer patients work fewer hours and earn less money, but Statistics Canada found that their spouses’ employment rates and income levels also dropped significantly.

Read: Employees with cancer need your support

Employment rates for Canadian men and women under 60 whose spouses were diagnosed with cancer fell an average of 2.4 percentage points in the first five years after diagnosis. At the same time, their annual earnings fell by $2,000 for men and $1,500 for women, which is equivalent to a 3.4 per cent decline for men and a 5.9 per cent decline for women.

After a health shock such as a cancer diagnosis, an individual’s spouse may work more hours to make up for lost household income (the added worker effect). Alternatively, they may work fewer hours to care for or spend more leisure time with their sick spouse (the caregiver effect).

Read: Plan sponsors underestimate prevalence of chronic disease

Statistics Canada points out that the added worker effect is more common in the U.S., where access to employer-sponsored health insurance acts as an added incentive for the spouse to keep working. But with Canada’s universal healthcare system, the added worker effect is less prevalent.

Researchers used data from the 1991 Census, the Canadian Cancer Registry and income tax records to track employment and income levels and cancer diagnoses among individuals who were continuously married to the same person from 1992 to 2003.

Read: A look at workplace support for employees with cancer

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on