Midlife Marital and Financial Stress and the Progression of Later-Life Health Problems for Husbands and Wives

J Aging Health. 2021 Oct;33(9):685-697. doi: 10.1177/08982643211004364. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Objectives: Locating the family systems theory within the life course stress process perspective, this study investigates how husbands' and wives' marital and financial stress were implicated in their subsequent physical health, psychological distress, and loneliness. Methods: Using prospective data from 254 husbands and wives over 27 years, a path model examined the influence of marital stress and family financial stress during midlife (40-50 years) on later-life (65+ years) physical health, psychological distress, and loneliness. Results: For wives, loneliness was a mechanism linking marital stress to their health outcomes and their husbands' physical health. For husbands, physical health was a mechanism linking financial strain to husbands' health outcomes and wives' physical health. Discussion: The findings emphasize the consideration of midlife financial and marital stress for policies and programs for older adults, particularly the prevention of loneliness and improving interpersonal processes, as ways to protect from earlier stressful experiences.

Keywords: distress; family financial stress; later years; loneliness; midlife marital stress; physical health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Financial Stress*
  • Humans
  • Marriage
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spouses*
  • Stress, Psychological