Period Trends in U.S. Marital Health Gaps, 1995-2010

Dmitry Tumin, Ohio State University

Married adults have better health than the unmarried, but an important caveat to the view of marriage as “haven in a heartless world” is that the relationship between marriage and well-being may be changing. I use data from the 1995-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (N = 4,096,943) to analyze period trends in health gaps across marital status. Assessing self-rated health, I confirm and extend prior findings of convergence between married and never married and health divergence between married and formerly married. I find comparable convergence and divergence, respectively, in five health risk factors. These trends in marital health gaps are attenuated after I adjust for the changing demographic characteristics of marital status groups. Recent married-never married convergence can be attributed to the two groups becoming demographically alike, while married-formerly married divergence appears to be a composite of rising selection into and rising adverse consequences of marital exit.

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Presented in Poster Session 5