Fertility history, health, and health changes in later life: a panel study of British women and men born 1923–49

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2011


We investigated associations between later-life health and fertility history for women and men, using the British Household Panel Survey. We modelled health and its rate of change jointly with sample retention over an 11-year period. For women, childlessness is associated with limitation of activity for health reasons and faster acquisition of the limitation. High parity (four or more children) is associated with poorer health for both women and men. For the parous, this association is also found when age at first birth is controlled. Early parenthood is associated with poorer health. For parents of two or more children, a birth interval of less than 18 months is associated with having a health limitation and an accelerated rate of acquiring it. We conclude that biosocial pathways link parenthood careers and the later-life health of both women and men, and that implications of closely spaced births for parents merit further attention.

Published in

Population Studies

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 65 , p.201 -215







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