Parenthood, marital status, employment and self-rated health among German men and women. Results from the 2009/10 GEDA-study

Elena von der Lippe, Robert Koch Institute

The association between parenthood, marital status, working status and health is broadly studied, but there are no consistent results. Some studies report positive, some negative relationship or even no relationships at all. Most of the discussions go in the direction of multiple social roles theory, divided into two explanatory hypotheses – multiple role-burden and multiple role-attachment hypothesis. We test those hypotheses and investigate closely the relationship between having children, marital status, employment, and subjective health among German men and women. We use data from the GEDA-study carried out by the Robert Koch-Institute in 2009-2010. They were collected using computer assisted telephone interviewing. The sample consists of 35 740 people aged 18-64. Effects of parenthood, marital status, and employment on self-rated health are analyzed. Being a parent increases the good subjective health both for men and women. Marital status on its own doesn’t show any significant effects. However, interactions show that single parenthood leads to significant increase in the report of bad subjective health for women. This effect is not observed for men. The working status has a strong influence for both genders, with non-working persons having worse subjective health. Working and living with partner, no matter with or without children has a positive influence on reporting good subjective health with stronger effect for men. The working status of men and women turned out to have the strongest effect on self-rated health. Being active on the labour market, combined with being a parent and a partner has a positive effect on the perceived health. Our results support the hypothesis of multiple-role attachment which states that multiple responsibilities are beneficial for health. The next step of investigation is to clarify the causality of the parenthood, partner status and health, as there might be some selection effects for which we do not account for.

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Presented in Session 2: Health, well-being and morbidity