The Impact of Retirement on Trajectories of Physical Health of Married Couples

TitleThe Impact of Retirement on Trajectories of Physical Health of Married Couples
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsCurl, AL
Academic DepartmentApplied Social Sciences
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
Date Published2007
UniversityCase Western Reserve University
CityCleveland, OH
KeywordsAdult children, Health Conditions and Status, Retirement Planning and Satisfaction

Retirement's impact on health in married couples is important due to increasing life expectancy and the retirement of Baby Boomers. There is mixed evidence about retirement's effects, if any, on physical health. In addition, there is a lack of research that examines the effect of one spouse's retirement on the other spouse's health. Secondary analysis was conducted using longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which was designed to obtain information about health and economic status from pre- to post-retirement. The sample consisted of 1,666 non-Hispanic married couples (176 Black couples and 1490 White couples) where both spouses participated in HRS from 1992 to 2000 and at least one spouse was age 51-61 at baseline. Political economy, social stratification, and interdependence theories provided the conceptual framework. Multilevel modeling was used to analyze spouses' short-term and long-term changes in health after retirement. Health was measured using four separate indicators (number of disease diagnoses, lower body difficulties, self-rated health, mortality). Retirement was operationalized two ways: self-defined retirement and labor force status (working, retirement, unemployed, disabled). Other predictors were demographics, health-related control variables and household characteristics. Husbands experienced an increase in their number of disease diagnoses and their risk of having at least one lower body difficulty (e.g., difficulty walking up a flight of stairs) during the first wave of their retirement, but fewer disease diagnoses long-term (i.e., up to 8 years post-retirement), compared to non-retired husbands. Wives experienced worse self-rated health during the first wave of their own retirement. Wives' retirement had a short-term positive impact on the self-rated health of husbands, but husbands' retirement did not affect wives' health. The health of certain individuals was more negatively affected by retirement than others due to their social stratification characteristics (race, education, income, wealth, age). Health disadvantage was predicted by both higher and lower social status (depending on gender, health outcome, retirement measure, and length of time since retirement). Findings of this study are important for social workers helping married couples through retirement transitions, for furthering empirical knowledge and research methodology, and for their implications for social justice and policy reform. Indexing (document details)

Endnote Keywords

health status

Endnote ID


Citation Key6271