Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 103–120

Marital Status, Family Ties, and Self-rated Health Among Elders In South India

  • S. Sudha
  • Chirayath Suchindran
  • Elizabeth J. Mutran
  • S. Irudaya Rajan
  • P. Sankara Sarma
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10823-006-9027-x

Cite this article as:
Sudha, S., Suchindran, C., Mutran, E.J. et al. J Cross Cult Gerontol (2006) 21: 103. doi:10.1007/s10823-006-9027-x


This article examines the impact of familial social support ties (indicated by marital status, kin availability, sources of economic support, and frequency and quality of emotional interaction) on subjective health perception among a sample of elderly men and women aged 60 and older in South India. We used 1993 survey data from three states of South India: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. We hypothesized that (a) widowhood would be associated with poorer self-rated health, (b) number of kin ties would be positively associated with self-rated health, (c) economic and emotional support from kin would improve outcomes, and (d) these associations would be stronger among women than among men. Results of logistic regression techniques supported the first hypothesis and partially supported the third. With regard to the second hypothesis, the presence of specific kin rather than the number of each type of family member was important. For the fourth hypothesis, results suggest that men and women in this sample have broadly similar associations between widowhood and self-rated health. For women however, controlling for socioeconomic status did not weaken the association between widowhood and self-rated health, suggesting the symbolic/cultural importance of this status. In general, these findings suggest that theories on the importance of marital status and kin ties for older adults’ self-rated health, which were developed and tested in Western societies, need to be refined for Asian societies, where the nature of marriage and widowhood are different.


AgingGenderKin tiesMarital statusSelf-rated healthSouth India

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Sudha
    • 1
  • Chirayath Suchindran
    • 2
  • Elizabeth J. Mutran
    • 3
  • S. Irudaya Rajan
    • 4
  • P. Sankara Sarma
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesUniversity of North Carolina-GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiostatisticsUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Center for Minority AgingUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Centre for Development StudiesTrivandrumIndia
  5. 5.Achutha Menon CentreSree Chitra Thirunal Institute for Health Sciences ResearchTrivandrumIndia