Mental health and union dissolution: are socio-economic determinants the same for men and women?

Anne-Lise Biotteau, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (INSEE)
Carole Bonnet, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Emmanuelle Cambois, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

Union dissolution has dramatically increased over the last decades. These evolutions have implications on health. The literature indeed highlights that separated people report poorer health, on average, than do their counterparts living in couple. Although some selection effects could play a role, more direct links between health and marital disruption exist. Long-term effects could result from the separation itself or from the socioeconomic consequences of separation, that may in turn have an effect on health. We use two waves of the French Health and professional career survey, in 2006 and 2010, to measure the links between separation and mental health in France for both men and women. Mental health is measured as the existence of symptoms of Major Depressive Episode (MDE) during the last fifteen days before the survey. Using logistic regressions, we show that separation and report of an MDE are positively associated for both men and women. Living alone seems to play a larger role for men, while for women, the experience itself of an union dissolution is more often associated with an MDE. We then use the "KHB" method to disentangle the direct effect of the separation from the indirect effects running through “mediating” variables, here, changes in social support and living standards. These changes contribute to 25 % to the association between reporting a MDE in 2010 and experiencing a separation between 2006 and 2010 for women. The decrease in living standard contributes the most (19 %). For men, the indirect effects of separation are less important, the contribution reaches 5,5 %, essentially through the loss of social support. Marital status and history are associated with poor health although differently for men and women. These findings are important to understand how situation of social vulnerability might contribute to the gender health gap.

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 Presented in Session 76. Gender disparities in health