Influence of Spouses’ Health Status on the Health Behavior of Older Adults

Yun Zhang, Ohio State University

While it has been well documented that married individuals perform better health behavior than their unmarried counterparts, an important question remains: is being married to sick spouses as beneficial as being married to healthy spouses in terms of health behavior? Using longitudinal data from Health and Retirement Survey, this study explores whether spouses’ health status influences individuals’ health behavior and whether these influences differ by gender. Compared with individuals having healthy spouses, both males and females having spouses in poor health are more likely to smoke cigarettes. Similarly, when spouses have poor health, males and females are less likely to exercise, although the effect is more pronounced for males. When spouses have poor health, females are more likely to be overweight while males are less likely to be overweight. When spouses have poor health, females are less likely to drink heavily and no significant influence is found among males.

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Presented in Poster Session 2