Marital History and Well-Being in Later Life

  • Linda J. Waite
Part of the International Handbooks of Population book series (IHOP, volume 1)

Social scientists have known at least since Durkheim that social relationships are intimately tied to health and well-being. Those with many close personal ties do better, on average, than those with few, with social isolates particularly disadvantaged, as Durkheim pointed out in Suicide. Marriage tends to form the centerpiece of social networks in most societies and plays a key role in the production and distribution of social support, which is one of the reasons that married people tend to live longer, healthier lives than those who are not married.


Single Mother Marital Quality Allostatic Load Marital Dissolution Marital Disruption 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Amato PR, Booth A (1997) A generation at risk: Growing up in an era of family upheaval. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MassGoogle Scholar
  2. Amato PR, Rogers SJ (1999) Do attitudes toward divorce affect marital quality? J Fam Issues 20:69–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Astone NM, McLanahan S (1994) Family structure, residential mobility, and school dropout: A research note. Demography 31:575–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bachman JG, Wadsworth HN, O’Malley PM, Johnson LD, Schulenberg JE (1997) Smoking, drinking, and drug use in young adulthood. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrett AE (2000) Marital trajectories and mental health. J Health Soc Behav 41:451–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ben-Shlomo Y, Kuh D (2002) A life course approach to chronic disease epidemiology: Conceptual models, emprical challenges and interdisciplinary perspectives. Int J Epidemiol 31:285–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Booth A, Amato P (1991) Divorce and psychological stress. J Health Soc Behav 32:396–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bramlett, MD, Mosher WD (2002) Cohabitation, marriage, divorce and remarriage in the United States. National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, MDGoogle Scholar
  9. Brockmann H, Klein T (2004) Love and death in Germany: The marital biography and its effect on mortality. J Marriage Fam 66:582–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cacioppo J, Berntson GG (2002) Balancing demands of the internal and external milieu. In: Friedman H, Silver RC (eds) Oxford handbook of health psychology. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Carr D, House JS, Kessler RC, Nesse RM, Sonnega J, Wortman C (2000) Marital quality and psychological adjustment to widowhood among older adults: A longitudinal analysis. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 55:S197–S207Google Scholar
  12. Carr DS (2004) Black/white differences in psychological adjustment to spousal loss among older adults. Res Aging 26591–622Google Scholar
  13. Cherlin A (1978) Remarriage as an incomplete institution. Am J Sociol 84:634–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cherlin AJ, Chase-Lansdale L, McRae C (1998) Effects of parental divorce on mental health throughout the life course. Am Sociol Rev 63:239–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Skoner DP, Rabin BS, Gwaltney JM, Jr. (1997) Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. J Am Med Assoc 227:1940–1944CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cunningham M, Thornton A (2005) The influence of union transitions on white adults attitudes toward cohabitation. J Marriage Fam 67:710–720CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. DeGarmo DS, Kitson GC (1996) Identity relevance and disruption as predictors of psychological distress for widowed and divorced women. J Marriage Fam 58:983–997CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dupre ME, SO Meadows (2007) Disaggregating the effects of marital trajectories on health. J Fam Issues 28:623–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Elwert F, Christakis NA (2006) Widowhood and race. Am Sociol Rev 71:16–41Google Scholar
  20. Ensel WM, Kristen Peek M, Lin N, Lai G (1996) Stress in the life course: A life history approach. J Aging Health 8:389–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frech A, Williams K (2007) Depression and psychological benefits of entering marriage. J Health Soc Behav 48:149–163Google Scholar
  22. Friedberg L (1998) Did unilateral divorce raise divorce rates? Evidence from panel data. Am Econ Rev 88:608–627Google Scholar
  23. Goldman N, Korenman S, Weinstein R (1995) Marital status and health among the elderly. Soc Sci Med 40:1717–1730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Goodwin JS, Hunt WC, Key CR, Smaet JM (1987) The effect of marital status on stage, treatment, and survival of cancer patients. J Am Med Assoc 258:3125–3130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gordon HS, Rosenthal GE (1995) Impact of marital status on hospital outcomes: Evidence from an academic medical center. Arch Intern Med 155:2465–2471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Grossbard-Shechtman S (1993) On the economics of marriage: A theory of marriage, labor and divorce. Westview Press, Boulder, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
  27. Grossman M (1972) On the concept of health capital and the demand for health. J Political Econ 80:223–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Grundy E, Holt G (2000) Adult life experiences and health in early old age in Great Britain. Soc Sci Med 51:1061–1074CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hahn BA (1993) Marital status and women’s health: The effect of economic marital acquisitions. J Marriage Fam 55:495–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harknett K, McLanahan S (2004) Racial and ethnic differences in marriage after the birth of a child. Am Sociol Rev 69:790–811Google Scholar
  31. Hemström Ö (1996) Is marriage dissolution linked to differences in mortality risks for men and women? J Marriage Fam 58:366–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hetherington EM, Kelly J (2003) For better or for worse: Divorce reconsidered. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Hirschl TA, Altobelli J, Rank MR (2003) Does marriage increase the odds of affluence? Exploring the life course probabilities. J Marriage Fam 65:927–938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Holden KC, Kuo HH (1996) Complex marital histories and economic well-being: The continuing legacy of divorce and widowhood as the HRS cohort approaches retirement. Gerontologist 36:383–390Google Scholar
  35. Holden KC, Smock PJ (1991) The economic consequences of marital dissolution. Annu Rev Sociol 17:51–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hopper J (1993) The rhetoric of motives in divorce. J Marriage Fam 55:801–813CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Horwitz AV, White HR, Howell-White S (1996) Becoming married and mental health: A longitudinal study of a cohort of young adults. J Marriage Fam 58:895–907CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hughes ME, Waite LJ (2007) Marital biography and health at midlife. in Working Paper. BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  39. Iwashyna TJ (2001) In sickness and in health: Understanding the effects of marriage on health. Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  40. Johnson DR, Wu J (2002) An empirical test of crisis, social selection, and role explanations of the relationship between marital disruption and psychological distress: A pooled timeseries analysis of fourwave panel data. J Marriage Fam 64:211–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kalmijn M, Monden CWS (2006) Are the negative effects of divorce on psychological well-being dependent on marital quality? J Marriage Fam 68:1197–1213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kessler RC, McGonagle KA, Zhao S, Nelson CB, Hughes M, Eshleman S, Wittchen HU, Kendler KS (1994) Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the united states. Arch Gen Psychiatry 51:8–19Google Scholar
  43. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Fisher LD, Ogrocki P, Stout JC, Speicher CE, Glaser R (1987) Marital quality, marital disruption, and immune function. Psychosom Med 49:13–34Google Scholar
  44. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Glaser R, Cacioppo JT, MacCallum RC, Syndersmith M, Kim C, Malarkey WB (1997) Marital conflict in older adults: Endocrinological and immunological correlates. Psychosom Med 59:339–349Google Scholar
  45. Lee M-A, Carr D (2007) Does the context of spousal loss affect the physical functioning of older widowed persons? A longitudinal analysis. Res Aging 29:457–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lichter DT, Graefe DR, Brown JB (2003) Is marriage a panacea? Union formation among economically disadvantaged unwed mothers. Social Problems 2003 50:60–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lillard LA, Waite LJ (1995) Til death do us part: Marital disruption and mortality. Am J Sociol 100:1131–1156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lund R, Holstein BE, Osler M (2004) Marital history from age 15 to 40 years and subsequent 10-year mortality: A longitudinal study of Danish males born in 1953. Int J Epidemiol 33:389–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lupton J, Smith JP (2003) Marriage, assets, and savings. In: Grossbard-Shechtman S (ed) Marriage and the economy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 129–152Google Scholar
  50. Marks NF, Lambert JD (1998) Marital status continuity and change among young and midlife adults: Longitudinal effects on psychological well-being. J Fam Issues 19:652–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mastekaasa A (1995) Marital dissolution and subjective distress: Panel evidence. Eur Sociol Rev 11:173–185Google Scholar
  52. Matouschek N, Rasul I (2008) The economies of the marriage contract: Theories and evidence. J Law Econ 51Google Scholar
  53. Mazur A, Michalek J (1998) Marriage, divorce and male testosterone. Soc Forces 77:315–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McEwen BS, Stellar E (1993) Stress and the individual. Arch Intern Med 153:2093–2101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. McLanahan SS (1983) Family structure and stress: A longitudinal comparison of two-parent and female-headed families. J Marriage Fam 45:347–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. McManus PA, DiPrete TA (2001) Losers and winners: The financial consequences of separation and divorce for men. Am Sociol Rev 66:246–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Nock S (1998) Marriage in men’s lives. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  58. Peterson RR (1996) A re-evaluation of the economic consequences of divorce. Am Sociol Rev 61:528–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pienta AM, Hayward MD, Jenkins KR (2000) Health consequences of marriage for the retirement years. J Fam Issues 21:559–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Proulx CM, Helms HM, Buehler C (2007) Marital quality and personal well-being: A meta-analysis. J Marriage Fam 69:576–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rasul I (2004) The impact of divorce laws on marriage. in Working Draft. Graduate School of Business, University of ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  62. Ross CE (1995) Reconceptualizing marital status as a continuum of social attachment. J Marriage Fam 57:129–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ross CE, Mirowksy J, Goldsteen K (1990) The impact of the family on health: Decade in review. J Marriage Fam 52:1059–1078CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sampson RJ, Laub JH (1993) Crime in the making: Pathways and turning points through life. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  65. Shahar D, Schultz R, Shahar A, Wing RR (2001) The effect of widowhood on weight change, dietary intake and eating behavior in the elderly population. J Aging Health 13:189–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Simon RW (2002) Revisiting the relationship among gender, marital status, and mental health. Am J Sociol 107:1065–1096CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Singer BH, Ryff CD (1999) Hierarchies of life histories and associated health risks. Ann NY Acad Sci 896:96–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Smock PJ, Manning WD, Gupta S (1999) The effect of marriage and divorce on women’s economic well-being. Am Sociol Rev 64:794–812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tucker JS, Friedman HS, Wingard DL, Schwartz JE (1996) Marital history at midlife as a predictor of longevity: Alternative explanations to the protective effect of marriage. Health Psychol 15:94–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Turner RJ, Wheaton B, Lloyd DA (1995) The epidemiology of social stress. Am Sociol Rev 60:104–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Umberson D (1987) Family status and health behaviors: Social control as a dimension of social integration. J Health Soc Behav 28:306–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Umberson D (1992) Gender, marital status and the social control of health behavior. Soc Sci Med 34:907–917CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Umberson D, Chen MD, House JS, Hopkins K, Slaten E (1996) The effect of social relationships on psychological well-being: Are men and women really so different? Am Sociol Rev 61:837–857CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Waite LJ, Gallagher M (2000) The case for marriage: Why married people are happier, healthier and better off financially. Doubleday, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  75. Waite LJ, Hughes ME (1999) At risk on the cusp of old age: Living arrangements and functional status among black, white, and hispanic adults. J Gerontol: Soc Sci 54B:S136–S144Google Scholar
  76. Wallerstein JS, Blakeslee S (1989) Second chances: Men, women and children a decade after divorce. Ticknor & Fields, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  77. Wallerstein JS, Lewis JM, Blakeslee S (2000) The unexpected legacy of divorce. Hyperion, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  78. Wickrama KAS, Lorenz FO, Conger RD, Elder GH Jr (1997) Marital quality and physical illness: A latent growth curve analysis. J Marriage Fam 59:143–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Williams K (2003) Has the future of marriage arrived? A contemporary examination of gender, marriage, and psychological well-being. J Health Soc Behav 44:470–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Williams K (2004) The transition to widowhood and the social regulation of health: Consequences for health and health risk behavior. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 59:S343–S349Google Scholar
  81. Williams KL, Sassler S, Nicholson LM (2008) For better or for worse? The consequences of marriage and cohabitation for the health and well-being of single mothers. Social Forces forthcomingGoogle Scholar
  82. Williams K, Umberson D (2004) Marital status, marital transitions, and health: a gendered life course perspective. J Health Soc Behav 45:81–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wilmoth J, Koso G (2002) Does marital history matter? Marital status and wealth outcomes among preretirement adults. J Marriage Fam 64:254–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zhang Z, Hayward MD (2006) Gender, the marital life course and cardiovascular health in late midlife. J Marriage Fam 68:639–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda J. Waite
    • 1
  1. 1.NORC & University of ChicagoChicago, ILUSA

Personalised recommendations