A longitudinal study of health selection in marital transitions

Soc Sci Med. 1998 Feb;46(3):425-35. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(97)00186-x.


We examined whether differences in health were associated with different probabilities of marital transitions in a longitudinal study, using Cox proportional hazard analysis. Data on approximately 10,000 Dutch persons of the GLOBE study, aged 15-74 years, were used for this purpose. The study started in 1991 and study subjects have been followed for 4.5 years. Of the four marital transitions studied (marriage among never married and divorced persons, and divorce and bereavement among married persons), only divorce among married persons was associated with health status: married persons who reported four or more subjective health complaints or two or more chronic conditions were, respectively, 1.5 and two times more likely to become divorced during follow-up than persons without these health problems. Since hardly any other studies have examined the role of health selection in marital transition with longitudinal data, more research is required before firm conclusions can be drawn. It can be concluded, however, that the frequently made assumption that health selection contributes only little to the explanation of health differences between marital status groups, seems, at least for the divorced, not justified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Divorce
  • Epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Marital Status*
  • Marriage
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk
  • Single Person
  • Widowhood