Living Arrangements and Health at Older Ages in Rural Malawi

Ageing Soc. 2018 May;38(5):1018-1040. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X16001422. Epub 2016 Dec 29.


Sub-Saharan Africa's older population is projected to nearly double in size by 2030. At the same time, demographic changes have caused major shifts in the units primarily responsible for the care of older adults: the family and household. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between household composition and health at older ages in rural Malawi. We use data from the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health (MLSFH), which contains detailed information on household and family structure, along with measures of mental and physical health (from the Short Form-12). We focus on several measures of living arrangements that are expected to be associated with health: overall household size, sex composition, and kin structure (based on co-residence with offspring and grandchildren). Results show that: (1) older women who co-reside with offspring have better mental and physical health compared to those living only with grandchildren; (2) older men who live in larger households or in households with a higher proportion of females have better physical health.

Keywords: Malawi; ageing; household; living arrangements; mental health; physical health.