Marital Status and History: Implications for Health in Older Adulthood

Amy Rauer, RAND
Julie M. Zissimopoulos, RAND
Benjamin Karney, University of California, Los Angeles

Although the variation in health outcomes by current marital status is well-documented, the life-course of marital events that resulted in that status is not well understood. This accumulated history may be an important determinant of the quality of life during older adulthood. This research asks, what are the effects of life-cycle marriage events on health at older ages and what are the behavioral, emotional, and financial mechanisms that might explain these effects? Using panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we find that the intersection between current marital status at older ages and previous marital history is particularly important for understanding health in older adulthood. Given the dramatic changes in family composition over the past 25 years, understanding the mechanisms underlying this relationship may be especially relevant as a growing number of individuals will be entering their later years with a diverse history of marital experiences.

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Presented in Session 121: Family and Health over the Life Course