Marital Status, Partnership and Health Behaviour: Findings from the German Ageing Survey (DEAS)
Numerous empirical studies have confirmed that married people have a lower risk of morbidity and mortality than unmarried people. However, there is relatively little existing research on the impact of marital status and partnerships on the health behaviour of elderly people in Europe. This study examines the association between partnership status and health-related behaviour among the German population in the second half of life (aged 40-85). We focus on four indicators of health behaviour: smoking, physical activity, body weight, and health check-ups. The data used in the analysis come from the 2008 (n=6,205) and 2014 (n=6,002) waves of the German Ageing Survey (DEAS). We applied logistic regression models with average marginal effects (AME).The results of our analysis are in line with the findings of previous studies, which indicated that being married has a protective effect on smoking and a negative effect on body weight. Crisis effects are found to be limited primarily to smoking by recently widowed people. Our study provides new empirical insights into the extent to which being married has protective effects on the use of health care, as people who are separated, divorced, or never married are found to be less likely to have regular health check-ups compared to married people. Furthermore, our results for physical activity are contrary to previous findings for younger adults, according to which being married is associated with a lower likelihood of participating in physical activities. The results of the data analyses show that at ages 40 and older, unmarried individuals, especially those who are not in a partnership, are at higher risk of physical inactivity than their married counterparts. Our findings on marital status and partnership status therefore demonstrate that being married is strongly associated with positive health behaviours. The results may be useful for designing health programmes or prevention measures.
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