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


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.


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



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.


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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

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