Mortality Differences by Partnership Status in England and Wales: The Effect of Living Arrangements or Health Selection?

Abstract

This article investigates the relationship between partnership status and mortality in England and Wales. Using data from the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study for the period between 2001 and 2011, we examine whether married people have lower mortality levels than unmarried individuals; whether individuals who cohabit have mortality levels similar to those of married or single persons; and how much the fact that married couples live with someone rather than alone explains their low mortality. Our analysis shows first that married individuals have lower mortality than unmarried persons. Second, men and women in premarital unions exhibit mortality levels similar to those of married men and women, whereas mortality levels are elevated for post-marital cohabitants. Third, controlling for household size and the presence of children reduces mortality differences between married and unmarried non-partnered individuals, but significant differences persist. The study supports both protection and selection theory. The increase in mortality differences by age between never-married cohabitants and married couples is likely a sign of the long-term accumulation of health and wealth benefits of marriage. Similar mortality levels of cohabiting and married couples at younger ages suggest that healthier individuals are more likely to find a partner.

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Fig. 1
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Source: Authors’ calculations based on the ONS LS

Fig. 3

Source: Authors’ calculations based on the ONS LS

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to Phil Sapiro and two anonymous referees for valuable comments and suggestions on a previous version of this article. Sebastian Franke’s research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/J500094/1] through the North West Doctoral Training Centre Social Statistics pathway (Ph.D. project: “Health, Mortality and Partnership Status: Protection or Selection”). The permission of the Office for National Statistics to use the Longitudinal Study is gratefully acknowledged, as is the help provided by staff of the Centre for Longitudinal Study Information and User Support (CeLSIUS). CeLSIUS is supported by the ESRC Census of Population Programme (Award Ref: ES/K000365/1). The authors alone are responsible for the interpretation of the data. This work contains statistical data from ONS which is Crown Copyright. The use of the ONS statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.

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Franke, S., Kulu, H. Mortality Differences by Partnership Status in England and Wales: The Effect of Living Arrangements or Health Selection?. Eur J Population 34, 87–118 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-017-9423-7

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Keywords

  • England and Wales
  • Survival analysis
  • Mortality differences
  • Marital status
  • Cohabitation
  • ONS LS