The Influence of Marital Dissolutions on Self-Reported Health Metrics of Older Individuals in a Rural African Context

Tyler W. Myroniuk, University of Maryland

The negative relationship between marital dissolutions and health has been well-established in high income nations. Yet it is unknown in many sub-Saharan African nations, where marriage is nearly universal, whether divorce and widowhood have similar detrimental effects on individual health. Further, as sub-Saharan Africa ages, increasing health and care-giving burdens will fall upon older individuals. I examine the extent to which marital dissolutions impact four self-reported health metrics of 922 rural Malawians, aged 45+, using two waves of the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health. After accounting for health selection bias, it appears that for only two measures, marital dissolutions predict worse health. Such findings are intriguing and raise questions about the relative hardship of marital dissolutions compared to other tribulations that Malawians routinely face as a consequence of living in poor, rural areas. These results call for the collection of more-detailed longitudinal data on older Africans.

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 Presented in Session P4. Children and Youth/Population and Aging