Gender and Well-Being among the Elderly: Evidence from Thailand
Researchers and international organizations frequently suggest that elderly women are broadly disadvantaged in comparison to elderly men. This analysis of data from Thailand, however, indicates a far more complex association between gender and various aspects of aging. Using data from the 1% sample of the 2000 Thai census and two national surveys of the elderly in Thailand conducted in 1994 and 1995, we examine the association between gender and various demographic, economic, psychosocial, and health variables. We find that elderly Thai women do face certain disadvantages in comparison to their male counterparts, including lower education and literacy, far greater chances of experiencing widowhood and living alone, and lower likelihood of receiving formal retirement benefits. Elderly Thai men, however, face other disadvantages compared to women, including worse survivorship, a lower likelihood of receiving money from adult children, and a greater probability of debt and other financial problems. Men are also less likely to feel satisfied with their financial situation. Many other demographic, psychosocial, and economic measures are not significantly associated with gender. Our analysis provides some support for a life course perspective that relates gender differences in old age to differences in earlier life experiences, roles, and reward structures, particularly in terms of access to retirement pensions and the type of support elderly men and women provide to their coresident children. The analysis highlights the importance of marital status and age distinction, which often mediate gender differences in elderly well-being. The study concludes with research and policy recommendations.