Fertility trajectories and health later in life: a cross-national approach

Julie Fricke, University of Colorado, Denver
Maria Sironi, University College London

Although life expectancy in developed countries has increased over the last few decades, so too have health inequalities among older people. This is due to the longer periods of morbidity and disability associated with higher life expectancy. For this reason, it is critical for social policies in industrialized societies (where population is ageing rapidly) to identify possible determinants of well-being inequality. Life course events (timing and sequencing) can explain some of the variation in health inequality. The transition to adulthood is important for health and subjective well-being in the long term because it is a phase of social development. Young people become active members of the society when they assume adult roles: workers, partners, and parents. Most prior research on this topic has focused only on the effect of one single event on later health, or alternatively, has considered the association between life course events and health at the same point in time. Moreover, pathways to adulthood are usually not contextualized in time and place. This paper aims at investigating the role of different life course trajectories on subjective well-being (life satisfaction; depression), and other physical health outcomes (number of chronic conditions; maximum grip strength; BMI; ADL; IADL) at older ages. Specifically, the first step involves studying the impact of different fertility histories – had children in a marriage or in a cohabitation, experienced dissolution after that, number of children, length of birth intervals, etc. – on health using data from several countries collected in the Survey of Health and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA), and Health and Retirement Study (HRS).

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Presented in Session 60: Physical health of older adults