Spousal Care and Marital Quality in Later Life: A Longitudinal Analysis

Ursula Henz , London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Living with a partner can have multiple positive influences on individual health and well-being but these effects are conditional on the quality of the partnership. One of the challenges to marital quality in older couples can arise from spousal caregiving. Although spousal caregiving usually forms part of maintaining a successful partnership, caregiver’s own frailty and long caregiving hours can lead to stress and resentment in particular in older couples. Caregiving and care receiving can also challenge long-established marital roles. The first aim of the paper is to describe the prevalence of spousal care in elderly couples in the UK, its intensity and its socio-demographic patterns. The second aim is to test whether spousal caregiving and receiving affects older people’s marital quality. Drawing on a life-course perspective, the paper derives hypotheses about factors that threaten or protect the quality of marriages of spousal carers. It also tests for gender differences because gendered caregiver burdens and gendered marital roles pose different challenges to husbands and wives. The analyses are based on the UK Household Longitudinal Study. The first wave of this panel study included more than 4,000 couples aged 55 or older, which can be followed for up to eight further panel waves. In the first wave, twenty percent of these couples reported spousal caregiving. Descriptive statistics are used to develop profiles of spousal caregiving among older couples. The effects of spousal caregiving on marital quality are estimated from a fixed-effects panel model.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session Ageing, Health and Mortality