How does your partnership history affect your well-being?

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New research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has found that the partnership experiences of those who are living alone in late mid-life can affect their psychological well-being.

The researchers say the results suggest that the experience of partnership dissolution can have a short-term impact on psychological well-being, and that experiencing several partnership dissolutions can have a long-term negative impact on someone’s psychological well-being.

Dieter Demey, Ann Berrington, Maria Evandrou and Jane Falkingham from the ESRC Centre for Population Change at the University of Southampton used a range of data from the first wave of Understanding Society, on life satisfaction, ‘psychological distress’, current and previous partnerships, family life and socio-economic characteristics to investigate the links between indicators of psychological well-being and partnership histories among those living alone in late mid-life (ages 50 to 64).

The research considered ‘GHQ-12 caseness’, an indicator of psychological distress which is based on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ). The answers to these questions are used to calculate a score ranging from 0 (the least distressed) to 12 (the most distressed). Values of 0 to 3 indicate no poor psychological well-being (or ‘no case’) and values of 4 to 12 indicate poor psychological well-being (or ‘case’).

Explaining the background to the research, Dieter Demey said:

“People’s partnership histories are becoming more diverse and complex because of historical increases in separation, divorce, cohabitation and living alone. These trends have led to some concern because previous studies have found that those who are separated, divorced, widowed or are living alone have lower well-being than those who are living with a partner.”

He added that another important finding was that partnership histories seem to be more strongly related with GHQ-12 caseness than with life satisfaction.

“This could be because these two indicators measure different aspects of well-being. It could also be due to the design of the questions on well-being and to how aspects of well-being change differently during the life course. This shows that it is important to take into account more than one indicator of psychological well-being.”

Further information

Press release courtesy of the Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton

 

this news has been re-posted from the Understanding Society website