Volume 35 - Article 19 | Pages 535–556  

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

By Dimiter Philipov, Sergei Scherbov


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.

Author's Affiliation

  • Dimiter Philipov - Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, OeAW, University of Vienna), Austria EMAIL
  • Sergei Scherbov - International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria EMAIL

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