At risk on the cusp of old age: Living arrangements and functional status among Black, White and Hispanic adults

Linda J. Waite, Mary Elizabeth Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives. We examine the relationship between living arrangements and multiple measures of physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning in late midlife. Methods. Using cross-sectional data from the Health and Retirement Study, we first assess the bivariate relationship between living arrangements and functioning; we then take into account demographic characteristics and measures of household resources and demands. Results. We find evidence of differential functioning among individuals in various living arrangements. Married couples living alone or with children show the highest levels of functioning, whereas single adults living in complex households show the lowest levels. Functional deficits for those in complex households are reduced but not eliminated when we take demographic characteristics and household resources and demands into account. We find few differences by gender and race/ethnicity in the relationship between living arrangements and functioning. Discussion. We show a pattern of poorer functioning among those in arguably the most demanding and least supportive household environments. This points to a vulnerable and risk-filled transition from middle to old age for these persons. Because Blacks and Hispanics show lower levels of functioning than Whites and are more likely to live in complex households, they may be particularly disadvantaged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S136-S144
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume54
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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