Every day for the past 15 months, and every day for the next 18 years, 10,000 Americans will turn 65. New research shows that among this cohort, marriage appears to play a significant role in successful aging.
The findings, published in a new special issue of The Gerontologist, shows that unmarried baby boomer counterparts generally fare much poorer in terms of economic, health, and social outcomes.
Two-thirds of the Baby Boomer cohorts are married; of the remaining 33 percent, the vast majority are either divorced or never-married, with only 10 percent widowed.
Study authors I-Fen Lin, Ph.D., and Susan L. Brown, Ph.D. used census and survey data form 1980 to 2009 to measure marital status trends over time.
Despite being a minority, the ranks of unmarried boomers has grown by more than 50 percent since 1980.
“Unmarried boomers are disproportionately women, younger, and non-white,” the authors state in their article. “They tend to have fewer economic resources and poorer health. The prevalence of disability is twice as high among unmarrieds and marrieds.”
Although unmarried boomers have double the disabilities, single boomers are less likely to have health insurance.
Among women, widows appear to be the most disadvantaged as they enjoy fewer economic resources and have poorer health than divorced and never-married women.
In contrast, those who never married are the least advantaged among men. Despite having relatively high levels of education, never-married men have poorer economic circumstances and are most likely to live alone.
Overall, 19 percent of unmarried boomers said they received food stamps, public assistance, or supplemental security income, while only six percent of married boomers indicated they used these services.
The article on marriage-related disparities, “Unmarried Boomers Confront Old Age: A National Portrait,” is one of several in the latest issue of The Gerontologist, which is titled, “Not Your Mother’s Old Age: Baby Boomers at Age 65.”
Other studies within this installment address caregiving issues, concerns among minority boomers, and intergenerational relationships.