Divorce and the wellbeing of older Australians

Gray, Matthew, de Vaus, David, Qu, Lixia and Stanton, David (2010) Divorce and the wellbeing of older Australians Melbourne, Vic, Australia: Australian Institute of Family Studies

Author Gray, Matthew
de Vaus, David
Qu, Lixia
Stanton, David
Title of report Divorce and the wellbeing of older Australians
Editor Lan Wang
Publication date 2010-04
ISBN 9781921414237
Year available 2010
Publisher Australian Institute of Family Studies
Series Research paper No. 46
Place of publication Melbourne, Vic, Australia
Start page 1
End page 16
Total pages 17
Language eng
Subjects 160805 Social Change
Abstract/Summary The number of older Australians who have experienced divorce at some point in their lives will increase dramatically in coming decades. The increase is a result of the sharp rise in divorce rates in the mid-1970s, which means that there is a "divorce bulge" where an increasing number of divorced people are now reaching later life. This is compounded by the structural ageing of the Australian population, with the first of the "baby boomers" having turned 60 in 2006. While there is an extensive literature that analyses the effects of divorce on wellbeing, there is relatively little research on the long-run effects of divorce in later life. This paper provides the first nationally representative Australian estimates of the impact of divorce on wellbeing in later life. Are older people who have once divorced sicker, lonelier, unhappier and more isolated in later life? This paper provides estimates of the effects of divorce on a number of aspects of wellbeing of older Australians (aged 55-74 years). Dimensions of wellbeing analysed are: level of social interaction and connectedness, perceived social support, life satisfaction, and physical and mental health. The impact of divorce is examined using data from Wave 5 of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, collected in 2005. The paper shows that divorce has a longlasting, negative impact on wellbeing and the effects appear to persist into later life for both men and women. However, the negative effects of divorce on wellbeing are largely confined to those who do not re-partner and remain single. An important difference between men and women is that for women who are divorced and single, negative effects of divorce are found for general health, vitality and mental health, while for men, there appear to be no effects of divorce on these health measures. For life overall and all seven of the aspects of life about which the HILDA survey asked - including their home, feeling safe, their local community, other aspects of their lives - women who were divorced and single were less satisfied than those who were married and never divorced (but otherwise similar). In comparison, while divorced and single men were less satisfied with several aspects of their lives than married and never divorced men, not all of the differences were significant. Furthermore, the effects of divorce on satisfaction with various aspects of life were smaller for men than women. While divorce appears to have some effects on perceived social support for both men and women, its effects on social support are less pervasive than its effects on satisfaction with life and, for women, health. Divorced singles appear to have more social contact with people living elsewhere. This is perhaps not surprising given that many of them were living alone. The negative effects of divorce on wellbeing are likely to have negative economic consequences for society as a whole, particularly in relation to the health consequences for women, which are likely to increase the demand for publicly funded or subsidised health services. It is clear that the costs to government of divorce last for two or more decades.
Q-Index Code AX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes ISSN 1446-9871

Document type: Research Report
Collection: School of Social Science Publications
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Created: Wed, 22 Dec 2010, 10:43:26 EST by Cheryl Byrnes on behalf of Faculty of Social & Behavioural Sciences