Marital disruptions and loss of support in later life: a longitudinal study of the United Kingdom

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2006


Marital disruption (i.e. due to death, divorce or separation) at older ages is an important issue as it removes the usual primary source of help and support: a husband or wife. To date, few studies have investigated the support implications (both informal, here defined as perceived support and social embeddedness and formal, defined as use of domiciliary care services) of marital disruptions in later life. This issue needs addressing as widow(er)hood and divorce are increasingly occurring at older ages. Employing data from the longitudinal British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) (1991-2003) we investigated the association between marital disruption and first loss of (a) perceived support and (b) at least weekly contact with at least one non-relative friend, among those aged 50 and over. We also examined first use of domiciliary care services (i.e. health visitor or district nurse, home help or meals-on-wheels) among those aged 70 and over. Our findings show that marital separation increased the odds of losing perceived support whereas widow(er)hood showed no significant association among people aged 50 and over. Separation and widow(er)hood increased the odds of losing weekly contact with non-relative friends (although the odds were greater for separation) in this age group. Finally, widow(er)hood increased the odds of using domiciliary care services among respondents aged 70 and over.

Published in

European Journal of Ageing


Volume: 3 (4):207-216




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