Marital biography and health at mid-life

Mary Elizabeth Hughes, Linda J. Waite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article develops a series of hypotheses about the long-term effects of one's history of marriage, divorce, and widowhood on health, and it tests those hypotheses using data from the Health and Retirement Study. We examine four dimensions of health at mid-life: chronic conditions, mobility limitations, self-rated health, and depressive symptoms. We find that the experience of marital disruption damages health, with the effects still evident years later; among the currently married, those who have ever been divorced show worse health on all dimensions. Both the divorced and widowed who do not remarry show worse health than the currently married on all dimensions. Dimensions of health that seem to develop slowly, such as chronic conditions and mobility limitations, show strong effects of past marital disruption, whereas others, such as depressive symptoms, seem more sensitive to current marital status. Those who spent more years divorced or widowed show more chronic conditions and mobility limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-358
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of health and social behavior
Volume50
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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