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Differences by union status in health and mortality at older ages: Results for 16 European countries


  • Dimiter Philipov

    (Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU))

  • Sergei Scherbov

    (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA))


Background: Married people live longer than the unmarried; micro-level research indicates that they enjoy better health. Macro-level research does not combine mortality, marital status, and health. Objective: We provide international comparisons of healthy and unhealthy life years at ages 50 and higher combining mortality, marital status, and health. Methods: We examine differences in healthy and unhealthy life years for married and cohabiting (i.e., partnered) and for single men and women and break these down into mortality and disability. EU-SILC and Eurostat data for 2011 are used for 16 European countries. Results: Our analyses show that partnered people, both men and women, are healthier than singles. However, these differences in unhealthy life are varied. For the length of healthy life, the effect of disability dominates the effect of mortality for women strongly and for men weakly, while the effect of mortality is more important for the length of unhealthy life of women. Populations in Eastern Europe are more disadvantaged than those in Western Europe with respect to length of life and of healthy life; these differences are larger for singles and lower for the partnered. Contribution: We extend previous macro-level studies on healthy and unhealthy life at older ages by introducing the additional dimension of partner status. We provide rich information in terms of life expectancies for 16 countries in Europe, with special attention on Eastern European countries and specifically on singles in these countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Dimiter Philipov & Sergei Scherbov, 2016. "Differences by union status in health and mortality at older ages: Results for 16 European countries," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 35(19), pages 535-556.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:demres:v:35:y:2016:i:19
    DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2016.35.19

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Yuanreng Hu & Noreen Goldman, 1990. "Mortality Differentials by Marital Status: An International Comparison," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 27(2), pages 233-250, May.
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    3. Tapani Valkonen & Pekka Martikainen & Jenni Blomgren, 2004. "Increasing excess mortality among non-married elderly people in developed countries," Demographic Research Special Collections, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 2(12), pages 305-330.
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    More about this item


    life expectancy of the elderly; life expectancy by union status; life expectancy by marital status; disability and union status; disability by marital status;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General


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