Gender differences in years of remaining life by living arrangement among older Singaporeans

Abstract

Living arrangements of older adults have often been studied as a measure of the support available to them. Given the rapidly ageing and low fertility context of Singapore where the prevalence of older adults living alone and without children is expected to increase, we construct multistate life tables to estimate the number of years that older persons can expect to live in different living arrangements at a population level (population-based) as well as based on their initial living arrangement (status-based). We focus particularly on whether there are gender differences in the expected years of life in different living arrangement states. We use the Panel on Health and Ageing of Singaporean Elderly, a 2009 nationally representative survey of 4990 Singaporeans aged 60 years and older, with follow-up surveys in 2011 and 2015. In calculating the probabilities of transition between different states, we control for number of children, housing type, and time-varying ADL limitations. We find that at age 60, women can expect to spend more than twice the proportion (18%) of their remaining lives living alone compared to men (7%). Status-based estimates indicate that the proportion of remaining years living with a child is higher for women initially living alone, with a spouse only or already with a child, compared to males. Our results indicate that while older women are more likely to live alone compared to their male counterparts, older women living alone are also more likely to transition to living with children. Our research sheds light on the importance of expanding research on life expectancy beyond health, to consider analysis using other forms of social stratification, particularly gender differences in states of living arrangement.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Chi-Tsun Chiu and Md. Ismail Tareque for helpful methodological inputs, and Rahul Malhotra for useful suggestions. The authors would also like to thank participants at the 31st REVES meeting in Barcelona in May 2019 for useful comments.

Funding

Waves 1, 2 and 3 of the Panel on Health and Ageing among Singaporean Elderly (PHASE) were funded or supported by the following sources: Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore; Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council under its Singapore Translational Research Investigator Award “Establishing a Practical and Theoretical Foundation for Comprehensive and Integrated Community, Policy and Academic Efforts to Improve Dementia Care in Singapore” (NMRC-STAR-0005-2009), and its Clinician Scientist—Individual Research Grant—New Investigator Grant “Singapore Assessment for Frailty in Elderly-Building upon the Panel on Health and Aging of Singaporean Elderly” (NMRC-CNIG-1124-2014); and Duke-NUS Geriatric Research Fund.

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AC contributed to conception and design, acquisition of data, editing of manuscript. AV contributed to conception and design, data analysis, interpretation of analysis, initial drafting and revision of manuscript. BG contributed to conception and design, preliminary analysis, contribution to manuscript. SM contributed to acquisition of data, comments on manuscript. YS contributed to conception and design, interpretation of analysis, editing and revision of manuscript.

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Correspondence to Abhijit Visaria.

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Chan, A., Visaria, A., Gubhaju, B. et al. Gender differences in years of remaining life by living arrangement among older Singaporeans. Eur J Ageing (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-020-00594-3

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Keywords

  • Living arrangements
  • Living alone
  • Life expectancy
  • Gender
  • Singapore