Book Chapter

The effect of current family situation on slow walking speed at old age

Doblhammer, G., Peters, S., Rizzuto, D., Welmer, A.
In: Doblhammer, G., Gumà, J. (Eds.): A demographic perspective on gender, family and health in Europe, 283–303
Cham, Springer Open (2018)
Open Access


Walking (or gait) speed is an important measure of health and frailty among the elderly. Little, however, is known about the relationship between walking speed and family situation, another important determinant of health at old age. This study provides a longitudinal perspective of the predictive power of the current family situation, measured in terms of partnership and parenthood, on slow walking speed. We used the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen (SNAC-K) for persons aged 60 years and older, living in private or institutional households. We performed two types of GEE-regressions predicting slow walking speed in the follow-up by the characteristics of the previous wave, and the decline in walking speed between two waves by characteristics from the first of the two waves. We found that family situation at old age significantly predicts health in terms of slow walking speed; the relationship with changes in health is less clear. Among both sexes, having no children is related to slow walking speed albeit the effect is only statistically significant for men. In addition, childless persons living in a partnership showed the steepest decline in walking speed. For men there is a clear positive gradient between the amount of family resources and walking speed: the childless living alone have the slowest walking speed, those living in a partnership and have children have the highest. For women, no positive gradient exists. On the contrary, living in a partnership exerts a negative effect, both among the childless and among those with children.

Keywords: Sweden
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.