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Health Consequences of Marriage for the Retirement Years

Publication Abstract

Pienta, Amy M., M.D. Hayward, and Kristi R. Jenkins. 2000. "Health Consequences of Marriage for the Retirement Years." Journal of Family Issues, 21(5): 559-586.

Greater numbers of persons will enter retirement outside of marriage or with a checkered marital history. Given the traditional health benefits of marriage, these changes in the population's marital life course may foretell changing demands for eldercare in addition to adverse health consequences. Here, the authors provide new evidence on the specific aspects of health associated with marriage for a nationally representative survey of retirement age adults. An important aspect of the authors' analysis is the assessment of whether the benefits of marriage hold equally for women and men, major race/ethnic groups, and persons with different marital histories. Data from the Health and Retirement Survey are used to evaluate how marriage is associated with major chronic illnesses, functional limitations, and disability. Findings document that marriage benefits health across a broad spectrum of fatal and nonfatal chronic disease conditions, functioning problems, and disabilities. Moreover, benefits of marriage are widely shared across demographic groups.

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