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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1


  1. Arpino B, Bordone V (2014) Does grandparenting pay off? The effect of child care on grandparents’ cognitive functioning. J Marriage Fam 76:337–351.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bongaarts J, Zimmer Z (2002) Living arrangements of older adults in the developing world: an analysis of demographic and health survey household surveys. J Gerontol Ser B 57:S145–S157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Cai L, Hayward M, Saito Y, Lubitz J, Hagedorn A, Crimmins E (2010) Estimation of multi-state life table functions and their variability from complex survey data using the SPACE Program. Demogr Res 22:129–158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Chan A (2005) Aging in Southeast and East Asia: issues and policy directions. J Cross-Cult Gerontol 20:269–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Chan A (2008) Social policies for the aged in Singapore. In: Lian KF, Tong C-K (eds) Social policy in post-industrial Singapore. Brill, Lieden

    Google Scholar 

  6. Chan A et al (2018) Transitions in health, employment, social engagement and intergenerational transfers in Singapore Study (THE SIGNS Study)—I: descriptive statistics and analysis of key aspects of successful ageing. Centre for Ageing Research and Education, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore.

  7. Chan A, Malhotra C, Malhotra R, Ostbye T (2011) Living arrangements, social networks and depressive symptoms among older men and women in Singapore. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 26:630–639.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Chan A, Malhotra R, Matchar DB, Ma S, Saito Y (2016) Gender, educational and ethnic differences in active life expectancy among older Singaporeans. Geriatr Gerontol Int 16:466–473.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Chan A et al (2019) Cohort profile: panel on health and ageing of Singaporean elderly (PHASE). Int J Epidemiol.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Chen F, Liu G (2011) The Health implications of grandparents caring for grandchildren in China. J Gerontol Ser B 67B:99–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Chen F, Short SE (2008) Household context and subjective well-being among the oldest old in China. J Fam Issues 29:1379–1403.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Chiu CT (2018) The SPACE program: stochastic population analysis for complex events. The University of Texas at Austin. Accessed 27 February 2019

  13. Chou KL, Ho AHY, Chi I (2006) Living alone and depression in Chinese older adults. Aging Ment Health 10:583–591.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Djundeva M, Dykstra PA, Fokkema T (2018) Is living alone “aging alone”? Solitary living, network types, and well-being. J Gerontol Ser B 74:1406–1415.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Elliott S, Painter J, Hudson S (2009) Living alone and fall risk factors in community-dwelling middle age and older adults. J Community Health 34:301.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Gaymu J, Springer S (2010) Living conditions and life satisfaction of older Europeans living alone: a gender and cross-country analysis. Ageing Soc 30:1153–1175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gu D, Vlosky AD, Zeng Y (2009) Gender differentials in transitions and expected years spending in seven living arrangements among the oldest-old in China: a population-based decrement-increment life table analysis. In: Benninghouse HT, Rosset AG (eds) Women and aging: new research. Nova Publisher, New York, pp 539–575

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gubhaju B, Østbye T, Chan A (2017) Living arrangements of community-dwelling older Singaporeans: predictors and consequences. Ageing Soc 38:1174–1198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Hermalin AI, Ofstedal MB, Baker KR, Chuang YL (2005) Moving from household structure to living arrangement transitions: what do we learn? Comparative study of the elderly in Asia Research Report 05–61. University of Michigan Population Studies Center, Ann Arbor

    Google Scholar 

  20. Housing Development Board (2020) Living with/near parents or child. Accessed 2 February 2020

  21. Jamieson L, Simpson R (2013) Living alone globalization, identity and belonging. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  22. Malhotra R, Malhotra C, Chan A, Østbye T (2013) Life-course socioeconomic status and obesity among older Singaporean Chinese men and women. J Gerontol Ser B 68:117–127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Malhotra R et al (2019) The aging of a young nation: population aging in Singapore. Gerontologist 59:401–410.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Merz E-M, Huxhold O (2010) Wellbeing depends on social relationship characteristics: comparing different types and providers of support to older adults. Ageing Soc 30:843–857.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Ogawa N, Retherford RD, Saito Y (2010) Care of the elderly and women’s labour force participation in Japan. In: Tuljapurkar S, Ogawa N, Gauthier AH (eds) Ageing in advanced industrial states: riding the age waves, vol 3. Springer, Netherlands, pp 223–261.

  26. OʼSúilleabháin PS, Gallagher S, Steptoe A (2019) Loneliness, living alone, and all-cause mortality: the role of emotional and social loneliness in the elderly during 19 years of follow-u.p Psychosom Med 81:521–526.

  27. Palloni A (2000) Increment-decrement life tables. In: Preston SH, Heuveline P, Guillot M (eds) Demography: measuring and modeling population processes. Wiley-Blackwell, New York, pp 256–272

    Google Scholar 

  28. Pimouguet C, Rizzuto D, Lagergren M, Fratiglioni L, Xu W (2016) Living alone and unplanned hospitalizations among older adults: a population-based longitudinal study. Eur J Pub Health 27:251–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Podhisita C, Xenos P (2015) Living alone in South and Southeast Asia: an analysis of census data. Demogr Res S15:1113–1146

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Raymo JM, Pike I, Liang J (2019) A new look at the living arrangements of older Americans using multistate life tables. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 74:e84–e96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Russell D, Taylor J (2009) Living alone and depressive symptoms: the influence of gender, physical disability, and social support among Hispanic and non-Hispanic older adults. J Gerontol Ser B 64B:95–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Saito Y, Robine J-M, Crimmins EM (2014) The methods and materials of health expectancy. Stat J IAOS 30:209–223.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Samanta T, Chen F, Vanneman R (2015) Living arrangements and health of older adults in India. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 70:937–947.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Singapore Department of Statistics (2020a) Health facilities and beds in inpatient facilities. Department of Statistics, Singapore

    Google Scholar 

  35. Singapore Department of Statistics (2020b) Resident households by household size, annual (Table M810371). Department of Statistics, Singapore

    Google Scholar 

  36. Singapore Department of Statistics (2020c) Singapore residents by age group, ethnic group and sex, end June annual. Department of Statistics, Singapore

    Google Scholar 

  37. Singapore Ministry of Health, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2019) The burden of disease in Singapore, 1990–2017: an overview of the global burden of disease study 2017 results. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Seattle, WA

    Google Scholar 

  38. Tang Y, Hooyman N (2018) Filial piety, living arrangements, and well-being of urban older adults in southern China Asian. Soc Sci.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Teerawichitchainan B, Knodel J, Pothisiri W (2015) What does living alone really mean for older persons? A comparative study of Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand. Demogr Res S15:1329–1360

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Teo J (2020) Assisted-living flats give seniors option to age at home. Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore

    Google Scholar 

  41. Thang LL (2010) Intergenerational relations: Asian perspectives. In: Dannefer D, Phillipson C (eds) The SAGE handbook of social gerontology. Sage, London.

  42. Verbrugge LM, Ang S (2018) Family reciprocity of older Singaporeans. Eur J Ageing 15:287–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Visaria A (2018) Work and retirement. In: Chan A, et al (eds) Transitions in health, employment, social engagement and intergenerational transfers in Singapore Study (THE SIGNS Study)—I: descriptive statistics and analysis of key aspects of successful ageing. Centre for Ageing Research and Education, Singapore.

  44. Visaria A, Malhotra R, Chan A (2019) Changes in the profile of older Singaporeans: snapshots from 2009 and 2016–2017. Centre for Ageing Research and Education, Singapore.

Download references


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.


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.

Author information




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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Abhijit Visaria.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Responsible Editor: Dorly J. H. Deeg.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 27 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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).

Download citation


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