Life course influences in later life Understanding impact of life course events on health and well-being is vital for effective policy development. Institute of Gerontology at King’s College London Team: Malcolm Nicholls (ESRC UPTAP User Fellow from DWP), Debora Price, Rachel Stuchbury, Rosalind Willis and Edlira Gjonca. 3 months for each project January – March and April – June.
Life course events and older people 1. A systematic review of the literature Life course influences on health and well-being in later 2. Secondary analysis Association of life course events and poverty and social isolation at ages 65 and over
What do we know? From previous research we knew little work in this area in relation to financial and social well-being, especially in the U.K. In part this is due to lack of longitudinal (and retrospective data) for nationally representative samples of older people Systematic literature review
What do we know? Considerable research on life course factors and health at older ages, but less on later life financial circumstances or social support Health: Continued impact of childhood factors. But, current circumstances appear to have greater influence on health outcomes. Health: early age at retirement, job loss, and traumatic life events all associated with poorer physical, and in some cases, mental health in mid and later life.
What do we know? Poverty: Weaker association than expected between life course events and poverty Poverty: Onset of retirement, disability and loss of spouse generally associated with lower incomes and poverty at older ages. Poverty: Education, social class and disability continue to be important predictors of later-life poverty. Social Support: Few studies (marital disruptions and loss spouse)
How did we investigate this issue? Secondary data analysis Review current data sources and suitability for research on life course influences and later life outcomes The best data sources: ELSA and BHPS Looked at life history factors associated with poverty status (or social isolation) in 2006 and changes in poverty status (or social isolation) 2002-2006
Data: English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) ELSA • Life course (cumulative events): percentage of working life in paid work or in legal marriage; total number of children. • Past trigger events: early voluntary and involuntary exit from labour force; first marriage before 21; first birth before 23; first widowhood or divorce before/after 45. • Trigger events 2002-6: starting or stopping working or informal caring; change in partnership status; onset of health problems; having a (further) grandchild; moving home.
Data: English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) ELSA • Sample of people aged 50+ (c. 12,000 in 2002) • Follows same people, interviews every 2 years • 3 ‘waves’ so far (2002/3, 2004/5 and 2006/7) • Wave 3 collected detailed life histories (work, partnership, parenthood, health) • Wide range of questions on health, employment, finances, attitudes. Includes nurse visit and other physical/mental tests
Data: English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) Findings: Poverty, Multivariate Analysis • Events and life course factors that impact on late life poverty are also disproportionately related to each other, e.g. own educational level, having a child when young, divorce • Aim: find out which life history factors and ‘trigger’ events still have an impact on poverty in later life, all other factors being equal • We can then be more confident that these factors are having an independent effect on late life poverty
Findings: Poverty, Multivariate Analysis • Percentage of working life in paid work, early exit from the labour force and marital histories either no or very weak relationship with later life poverty. • Strongest and most consistent influences on poverty: education, social class, housing tenure and age • No educational qualifications: odds 28% higher for men, 33% higher for women • Last employment was manual work: odds 119% higher for men, 38% higher for women • Rents property: odds 65% higher for men, 51% higher for women • Age: odds of being in poverty increase by 6% for men, 2% for women, for each additional year of age after 65 • Loss of spouse most consistent relationship • Ever widowed: odds of being in relative poverty 61% higher for women (not significant for men) • Ever divorced: odds of being in relative poverty 47% higher for women (not significant for men Source: ELSA data
Findings: Poverty Transitions • Considered: • Starting and stopping paid work, starting and stopping caring, change in marital status, onset of illness/disability, change in grandparenthood, moving house • Multivariate analysis shows: • Loss of a partner for women significantly increases their chances of entering poverty (odds ratio 2.88)
Data: English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) Findings: Social Isolation • Defined as less than monthly contact with friend. • No life history measures associated with social isolation for men. • Among women, more time in paid work and experience of widowhood less likely to report social isolation. • For men and women, older age and lower social class associated with social isolation in later life; for men poor health was also important.
Policy Implications • Policy implications of findings: • Percentage of working life in paid work does not impact on poverty, once other factors are controlled • The enduring impact on poverty of widowhood and divorce
Proportion of Working Life in Paid Work • Having paid work throughout the working life is not enough to ensure an escape from poverty in old age • ‘Activation’ policies will not necessarily protect against later life poverty • Need a far greater understanding of what elements of paid work protect (or not) against later life poverty • Lifetime earnings is likely to be key • Data needs: release linked NI data to researchers
Widowhood and Divorce • Women are dependent on spouses to take the household out of poverty – both current and future • Loss of spousal income has severe impacts • Policy implications • Level of basic state pension needs to be higher and more universal • Pension share on divorce; protection of survivor benefits • Targeted outreach work • Monitor outcomes of government proposals to increase women’s individual pensions
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