How Much Time Is Left? Trends in Parental Lifespan across Europe

Erich Striessnig , Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)
Alessandra Trimarchi, Institut National d’Études Démographiques (INED)

Over the course of the second half of the 20th century, European societies have experienced societal transformations linked to partnership instability, union dissolution, as well as lower and later fertility. The corresponding increases in the mean age at first birth would have led to a reduction in the number of years parents have left to spend with their (first born) children. Yet life expectancy has also increased markedly, leading again to an increase in “parental lifespan”. While life expectancy has generally increased for all population subgroups and there is evidence that life expectancy is generally higher among parents, not all of those additional life years can be expected to be healthy life years. In this article, we want to look at how parental lifespan has evolved across Europe over time, considering progress in educational attainment that has been largely responsible for the observed changes in family formation patterns, as well as differences in healthy life expectancy that have implications for the support capabilities of elderly parents towards their offspring. After describing trends in life expectancy, healthy life expectancy and mean age at first birth for women across European countries, we estimate parental lifespan by education, using the most recent harmonized data from Eurostat and the Integrated European Population Microdata database. In general, those population subgroups that delay first births the most while having the smallest health expectancy, capable parental lifespan will be the shortest, with negative implications for the wellbeing of both younger and older generations.

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 Presented in Session 79. Health, Wellbeing and Morbidity