For Better or for Worse Mental Health in Old Age: Exogamy in Germany

Chia Liu , Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Peter Eibich, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

In later life, social ties become increasingly important for one’s mental health. In this study, we test whether exogamous unions are beneficial to the mental health of older immigrants and natives (60+) in Germany, through the pathway of gaining or losing local social ties through their native or non-native spouse. First, we examine the characteristics of exogamous natives and immigrants to control for selection effects. Next, we analyze the social networks of endogamous and exogamous individuals. We use random effects and correlated random effects models to measure the extent to which social networks play a role in older individuals’ mental health. Results show that exogamous immigrants fare better than endogamous immigrants mostly due to selection effects. Endogamous natives remain to be most advantaged for both men and women. Exogamous native women have significantly lower mental health than their endogamous counterparts, while we observe no differences among native men of different union types. Social network influences mental health, but does not fully explain the mental health gap among the groups. This work serves to enrich the discussion on the role family and the diversification of union type play in mental health in older ages.

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 Presented in Session 73. Immigrant Health and Mortality