MPIDR Working Paper
Stable marital histories predict happiness and health across educational groups
Mäki, M., Hägglund, A. E., Rotkirch, A., Kulathinal, S., Myrskylä, M.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2022-035, 41 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (December 2022)
Couple relations are a key determinant of mental and physical well-being in old age. However, we do not know how the advantages and disadvantages associated with partnership histories vary between socioeconomic groups. We create relationship history typologies for the cohorts 1945-1957 using the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe, and examine, for the ﬁrst time, how relationship histories relate to multiple indicators of well-being by educational attainment. Results show that stable marriages co-occur with higher well-being, compared to single and less stable partnership histories. All educational groups experience clear and similar beneﬁts from stable unions. The adverse outcomes of union dissolution are more pronounced for those with lower education. The larger drawbacks on well-being among the less educated, especially among men, suggest that those with fewer resources suﬀer more from losing a partner. The ﬁndings underscore that current and past romantic relations predict well-being in old age and help policymakers in identifying vulnerable subgroups among the aging population.
Keywords: partnership history, cumulative disadvantage, health, quality of life, aging