Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 21, Issue 3–4, pp 103–120 | Cite as

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Aging Gender Kin ties Marital status Self-rated health South India 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This is a revised version of the paper presented at the Population Association of America Annual Meeting, March 25–27, 1999, in New York City. This research was supported by Grant T32 HD07237, “Research Training in Population Statistics” from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The Aging Survey 1993 was supported by the larger ESCAP project on the Elderly in Asia. We thank the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Center on Minority Aging at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for research support. We also thank David Butler Perry for assistance in manuscript preparation.

References

  1. Agarwal, B. (1998). Widows vs. daughters or widows as daughters. Modern Asian Studies, 32, 1–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Antonucci, T., Lansford, J., & Akiyama, H. (2002). Differences between men and women in social relations, resource deficits and depressive symptomatology later in life. Journal of Social Issues, 58, 767–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berkman, L., & Glass, T. (2000). Social integration, social networks, social support, and health. In L. Berkman & I. Kawachi (Eds.), Social epidemiology (pp. 137–173). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Berkman, L., & Syme, S. (1979). Social networks, host-resistance, and mortality: A nine-year follow-up study of Alameda County residents. American Journal of Epidemiology, 109, 186–204.Google Scholar
  5. Bhat, A. K., & Dhruvarajan, R. (2001). Ageing in India: Drifting intergenerational relations, challenges and options. Ageing and Society, 21, 621–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cain, M. (1988). The material consequences of reproductive failure in rural South Asia. In: D. Dwyer & J. Bruce (Eds.), A home divided: Women and income in the third world (pp. 20–38). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  7. Cain, M. (1991). Widows, sons and old age security in rural Maharashtra: A comment on Vlassoff. Population Studies, 45(3), 519–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Caldwell, J. C., Reddy, P. H., & Caldwell, P. (1988). The causes of demographic change in South India. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  9. Chan, A., & DaVanzo, J. (1996). Ethnic differences in parents’ co-residence with adult children in Peninsular Malaysia. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology, 11, 29–59.Google Scholar
  10. Chen, M. (2000). Perpetual mourning: Widowhood in rural India. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, L. (1992). No aging in India: The uses of gerontology. Culture Medicine and Psychiatry, 16(2), 123–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohen, S., & Syme, S. L. (Eds.) (1985). Social support and health. Orlando: Academic.Google Scholar
  13. Das Gupta, M. (1996). Life course perspectives on women’s autonomy and health outcomes. Health Transition Review, 6, 213–231.Google Scholar
  14. DaVanzo, J., & Chan, A. (1994). Living arrangements of older Malaysians: Who coresides with their adult children? Demography, 31, 95–113.Google Scholar
  15. Dharmalingam, A. (1994). Old age support: Expectations and experiences in a south Indian village. Population Studies, 48(1), 5–19, London: Mar 1994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dreze, J., & Srinivasan, P. V. (1997). Widowhood and poverty in rural India. Journal of Development Economics, 54, 217–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Durkheim, E. (1951). Suicide: A study in sociology. New York: Free.Google Scholar
  18. Dyson, T., & Moore, M. (1983). On kinship structure, female autonomy and demographic behaviour in India. Population and Development Review, 9, 35–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goldman, N., Korenman, S., & Weinstein, R. (1995). Marital status and health among the elderly. Social Science and Medicine, 40, 1717–1730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goldscheider, F. (1990). The aging of the gender revolution: What do we know and what do we need to know? Research on Aging, 12, 531–545.Google Scholar
  21. Hardy, M., & Hazelrigg, L. (1993). The gender of poverty in an aging population. Research on Aging, 15, 243–278.Google Scholar
  22. Hermalin, A. I. (1995 April). Aging in Asia: Setting the research foundation. Asia Pacific Population Research Reports, 4.Google Scholar
  23. Hosmer, D., & Lemeshow, S. (1989). Applied logistic regression. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  24. House, J. S., Robbins, C., & Metzner, H. L. (1982). The association of social relationships and activities with mortality: Prospective evidence from the Tecumseh Community Health Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 116, 123–140.Google Scholar
  25. House, J., Umberson, D., & Landis, K. (1988). Structures and processes of social support. Annual Review of Sociology, 14, 293–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hu, Y., & Goldman, N. (1990). Mortality differentials by marital status: An international comparison. Demography, 27, 233–250.Google Scholar
  27. Idler, E. L., & Benyamini, Y. (1997). Self-rated health and mortality: A review of twenty-seven community studies. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 38, 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Idler, E. L., & Kasl, S. V. (1995). Self-ratings of health: Do they also predict change in functional ability? Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 50B, S344–S353.Google Scholar
  29. International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) and ORC Macro (2000). National Family Health Survey (NFHS-2) 1998–99 India. Mumbai: IIPS.Google Scholar
  30. Irudaya Rajan, S., Mishra, U. S., & Sarma, P. S. (1999). India’s elderly: Burden or challenge. New Delhi: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Johnson, R. J., & Wolinsky, F. D. (1994). Gender, race, and health: The structure of health status among older adults. Gerontologist, 34(1), 24–36, Washington.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kanbargi, R. (1985). Old age security and fertility behaviour: Some research issues. Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society, 20(3), 226–237. (Nov.)Google Scholar
  33. Kishor, S. (1993). May God give sons to all: Gender and child mortality in India American Sociological Review, 58 247–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Knodel, J., & Debavalya, N. (1992). Social and economic support systems for the elderly in Asia. Asia Pacific Population Journal, 7(3), 5–12.Google Scholar
  35. Lamb, S. (1997). The making and unmaking of persons: Notes on aging and gender in North India. Ethos, 25, 279–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Li, L., Young, D., Wei, H., Zhang, Y., Zheng, Y., Xiao, S., et al. (1998). The relationship between objective life status and subjective life satisfaction with quality of life. Behavioral Medicine, 23(4), 149–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lillard, L. A., & Waite, L. J. (1995). Til death do us part: Marital disruption and mortality. American Journal of Sociology, 100, 1131–1156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Malhotra, A., Vanneman, R., & Kishor, S. (1995). Fertility, dimensions of patriarchy, and development in India. Population and Development Review, 21, 281–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marulasiddiah, H. M. (1966). The declining authority of old people. Indian Journal of Social Work, 27, 175–185.Google Scholar
  40. Marulasiddiah, H. M. (1969). Old people of Makunti. Dharwad, India: Karnatak University.Google Scholar
  41. Meyer, M. H. (1990). Family status and poverty among older women: The gendered distribution of retirement income in the United States. Social Problems, 37, 551–563.Google Scholar
  42. Miltiades, H. B. (2002). The social and psychological effect of an adult child’s emigration on non-immigrant Asian Indian elderly parents. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology, 17, 33–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nugent, J. B. (1985). The old-age security motive for fertility. Population and Development Review, 11, 75–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rahman, M. O. (1993). Gender differences in marriage and mortality for older adults in rural Bangladesh: Is widowhood more dangerous for women than men? Santa Monica, CA: RAND.Google Scholar
  45. Ramanathan, C. S., & Ramanathan, P. N. (1994). Elder care among Asian Indian families: Attitudes and satisfaction. Community Alternatives: International Journal of Family Care, 6(1), 93–112.Google Scholar
  46. Reddy, P. J. (1989). Inter-generational support: A reality or myth. In R. N. Pati & B. Jena (Eds.), Aged in India socio-demographic dimensions (pp. 180–198). New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House.Google Scholar
  47. Reidy, E., Ofstedal, M. B., & Knodel, J. (2002). Gender Differences in the Association between Marriage and Self-Rated Health for Older Adults Across Eight Asian Countries paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, Atlanta, May 9–11 2002.Google Scholar
  48. Ross, C., Mirowsky, J., & Goldsteen, K. (1990). The impact of the family on health: The decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 1059–1078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schroder-Butterfill, E. (2004). Inter-generational family support provided by older people in Indonesia. Ageing and Society, 24, 497–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Seeman, T. E., Kaplan, G. A., Knudsen, L., Cohen, R., & Guralnik, J. (1987). Social network ties and mortality among the elderly in the Alameda County Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 126, 714–723.Google Scholar
  51. Sengupta, M., & Agree, E. (2002). Gender and disability among older adults in North and South India: Differences associated with coresidence and marriage. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology, 17, 313–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shanthi, K. (1995). Growing incidence of female headship—causes and cure. In: R. C. Heredia & E. Mathias (Eds.), The family in a changing world: Women, children and strategies of intervention (pp. 239–253). New Delhi, India: Indian Social Institute, 1995.Google Scholar
  53. Sharma, M. L., & Dak, T. M. (1987). Aging in India: Challenge for the society. New Delhi: Ajanta.Google Scholar
  54. Steinbach, U. (1992). Social networks, institutionalization, and mortality among elderly people in the United States. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 47, S183–S190.Google Scholar
  55. Sun, R. (2002). Old age support in contemporary urban China from both parents’ and children’s perspectives. Research on Aging, 24(3), 337–360.Google Scholar
  56. Thoits, P. A. (1992). Social support functions and network structures: A supplemental view. In H. O. F. Veiel & U. Baumann (Eds.), The meaning and measurement of social support: The series in clinical and community psychology (pp. 57–62). New York: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  57. United Nations (2001). Widowhood: Invisible women, secluded or excluded. U.N. Publication Sales No. E-OO-XV11.14. Retrieved June 2, 2003, from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/public/wom_Dec%2001%20single%20pg.pdf.
  58. Van Willigen, J. N., Chadha, K., & Kedia, S. (1995). Personal networks and sacred texts: Social aging in Delhi. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology, 10, 175–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Vlassoff, C. (1990). The value of sons in an Indian village: How widows see it. Population Studies, 44(1), 5–20. (March 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Waite, L., & Gallagher, M. (2000). The case for marriage: Why married people are happier, healthier, and better off financially. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  61. Waldron, I., Hughes, M. E., & Brooks, T. L. (1996). Marriage protection and marriage selection: Prospective evidence for reciprocal effects of marital status and health. Social Science and Medicine, 43, 113–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wolinsky, F. D., & Johnson, R. J. (1992). Perceived health status and mortality among older men and women. Journals of Gerontology, 47(6), S304–S312, Nov 1992.Google Scholar
  63. Wyke, S., & Ford, G. (1992). Competing explanations for associations between marital status and health. Social Science and Medicine, 34, 523–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Yadava, K. N. S., Yadava, S. S., & Vajpeyi, D. K. (1997). A study of the aged population and associated health risks in rural India. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 44, 293–315.Google Scholar
  65. Zick, C. D., & Smith, K. R. (1991). Marital transitions, poverty, and gender differences in mortality. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 327–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zimmer, Z., Chayovan, N., Lin, H-S., & Natividad, J. (2004). How indicators of socioeconomic status relate to physical functioning of older adults in three asian societies. Research on Aging, 26(2), 224–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zimmer, Z., Liu, X., Hermalin, A., & Chuang, Y-L. (1998). Educational attainment and transitions in functional status among older Taiwanese. Demography, 35(3), 361–375.Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations