The relationship between health and partnership history in adulthood: insights through retrospective information from Europeans aged 50 and over
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The association between health and partnership status is a growing concern within the social sciences. Some partnership situations exhibit positive effects on health, while partnership breakdowns display negative impacts. However, case studies show that these associations may change with age, due to potential sources of heterogeneity within a population. The current analysis explored this association over the adult life course (ages 30–64) of Europeans aged 50 years and older based on retrospective information on health and partnership from SHARELIFE (N = 23,535 after data screening). The data allowed us to control for socio-demographic covariates as well as for individual infirmity, measured by childhood health. We also considered contextual survival selection effects by comparing 13 European countries for which pre-adult mortality levels largely differed among the cohorts involved (1907–1958). Discrete-time hazard analyses examined the risk of suffering from a major episode of poor health (self-reported) in adulthood as a function of partnership history, using two approaches: a pooled model and country-specific models. The results revealed no differences between those who lived with a partner (first union) and single individuals in terms of the retrospective hazards of poor health. We hypothesize that this result stems from the cumulative effect of survival selection on individuals in advanced ages according to partnership status. The results also partially point to the plausibility of a contextual survival selection, which should be confirmed by further research based on additional health indicators.
KeywordsPartnership status Health Biographical information Survival Selection SHARE
This study uses data from SHARELIFE release 1, as of November 24, 2010. The collection of SHARE data has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the fifth framework programme (project QLK6-CT-2001- 00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the sixth framework programme (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT- 2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and through the seventh framework programme (SHARE-PREP, 211909 and SHARE-LEAP, 227822). Additional funding from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553-01 and OGHA 04-064, IAG BSR06-11, R21 AG025169) as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged.
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