Effect of Life Course Transitions on Health Inequalities. Health Consequences of Changes in Romantic Partnership, Work and Employment Status Among Men and Women

Research question/goal: 

This projects aims to advance our knowledge about the emergence and reproduction of social health inequalities as a consequence of life course transitions. Based on the theoretical premises of the cumulative advantage/disadvantage model, we first analyse changes in health status due to transitions in the domains of romantic partnerships and employment. Second, we extend our focus to the impact of these life course transitions on the health of partners and children. Throughout the project, particular attention will be paid to gender-specific health outcomes. Theoretical model: The theoretical model rests on the assumption that life course transitions have an effect on health (causation) and, in turn, are affected by health (selection), leading to a potentially self-reinforcing dynamic of poor health resp. good health over time. Potential causal pathways (resources, stressors, strain, and health behaviour) will be analysed within three work packages:
Work package 1, partnership transitions: In this work package, we analyse effects of health on union formation and union dissolution as well as health-related consequences of these transitions. We distinguish between marital and non-marital relationships as well as between first- and higher-order marriages.
Work package 2, transitions in employment: This work package focuses on the associations between occupational mobility, unemployment and health. First, we examine how upward and downward occupational mobility influences health. In a second step, health effects of unemployment and re-employment are analysed. We concentrate on how health consequences of unemployment are moderated by the previous occupational status of an individual, a question that has received very little attention so far.
Work package 3, social dynamics of health: In this work package, we investigate in how far family members buffer negative health consequences of (downward) mobility or unemployment. At the same time, we are interested in spillover effects of one family member's transitions on the other family members' health.
Data and methods: Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, the analysis will rest heavily on longitudinal methods exploiting within-subject variation, e.g., fixed effects panel regression for ordinal outcomes. In addition, dyadic data analysis will be used to determine effects of family relations on health and health behaviour.
Implications: Evidence-based knowledge about critical stages in the life course and social processes through which health inequalities are shaped and reproduced may provide a crucial input for designing public health measures and social policies. We will thus make findings from the project available to medical practitioners, social workers and policy makers.

Current stage: 

In 2017, we focused on studying the influence of the transition to marriage on spouses' health. Based on the German SOEP data, we investigated whether marriage had a protective effect on health. We were particularly interested in the question whether such a protective effect occurs immediately or only cumulatively and if it is persistent or temporary. First results were submitted to international conferences. In addition, we are currently preparing a special issue  for an international journal on the subject of ‘Families and Health’.

Fact sheet

2014 to 2019
Data Sources: 
secondary data analysis of survey data
Geographic Space: