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: 

Our project explored the lifelong development of social health inequalities with two primary goals: understanding how life events tied to family and work affect individual health and examining their influence on the health of others in the household. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel for a long-term perspective, we gained insights into the enduring health effects of events such as marriage, divorce, and precarious employment.
In work package 1, we examined the health effects of marriage and divorce. We demonstrated that the long-term health advantages of marriage were less significant than anticipated. Divorce predominantly influenced short-term mental health, with exceptions for specific groups such as childless women and those with young children, who encountered enduring mental health challenges.
In the second work package, we examined the impact of precarious employment—unstable, physically or mentally demanding, or low-paying—on people’s health. We documented both immediate and long-term effects on physical and mental health. Even after leaving precarious jobs, the negative health consequences could persist.
In work package 3, we used cutting-edge analytical methods to explore how one partner’s job affected the health of both partners in couples living together. We found substantial gender differences: when women had partners who faced unemployment or job insecurity for a long time, their health suffered—whereas men were not affected by their partner’s long-term precarious employment. This was more common in couples with lower education levels, suggesting that lower economic security or traditional gender roles may increase the health risks in couples.
Our project showed that prolonged job insecurity and adverse employment conditions are a serious threat to people’s health and their families. In contrast, getting married didn't always lead to better health. Certain groups, such as unmarried men, lower-educated couples, and childless women, were more vulnerable to health challenges during life transitions. Our research produced new insights into how social inequalities in health can worsen due to unequal opportunities in family and work.

Fact sheet

2014 to 2023
Data Sources: 
secondary data analysis of survey data
Geographic Space: