Marital quality, marital dissolution, and mortality risk during the later life course

July 25, 2016


  • J. Scott Brown
  • Taka Yamashita

This study examines the relationship between later-life marital quality, marital dissolution, and mortality using discrete-time event history models with data from nine waves (1992–2008) of the Health and Retirement Study (n = 7388). Results show marital status is more important for men's mortality risk than women's, whereas marital quality is more important for women's survival than men's. Being widowed or divorced more than two years raises mortality risk for men, but later-life marital dissolution is not significantly associated with women's mortality risk, regardless of the type of dissolution or length of time since it occurred. Low-quality marital interaction is negatively related to women's odds of death, but none of the marital quality measures are significantly associated with mortality for men. Marital satisfaction moderates the relationship between widowhood and mortality for women, but the relationship between marital dissolution and mortality is similar for men regardless of marital quality prior to divorce/widowhood. Results suggest the importance of accounting for both marital status and marital quality when examining older individuals' mortality risk.

The Gerontologist, 165, 119–127. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.025

Publication available online, subscription may be required.


  • Demographics