In sum, previous research found that having a younger spouse is beneficial, while having an older spouse is detrimental for the survival chances of the target person. Most of the observed effects could not be explained satisfactorily until now, mainly because of methodological drawbacks and insufficiency of the data. The most common explanations refer to health selection effects, caregiving in later life, and some positive psychological and sociological effects.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHESES
In my model, exposure to risk of mortality depends on the individual’s own resources, those of their spouse, and their gender. Previous limitations are addressed by using detailed Danish register data in a time-dependent framework using hazard regression.
For men, the findings regarding the age gap to the spouse are relatively consistent: namely, that male mortality increases when the wife is older and decreases when the wife is younger. Previous research also indicated that mortality by the age gap to the spouse differs between the sexes, but none of the authors proposed reasons for this effect (Kemkes-Grottenthaler 2004; Williams and Durm 1998). The most common explanations of mortality differences by age gap to the spouse-health selection, caregiving in later life, and positive psychological effects of having a younger spouse-do not suggest large differences between the sexes. Thus, I hypothesize a similar pattern for women: namely, that the chance of dying increases when the husband is older and decreases when the husband is younger.
I also hypothesize that the duration of marriage has an impact on the mortality differentials by the age gap to the spouse. Previous studies speculated that marriages should be of sufficient duration to allow for any effects on mortality. This reasoning suggests that the mortality advantage of individuals who are younger than their spouses should not be observable in marriages of short duration. Continue reading In this section, I develop some hypotheses about the relationship between the spousal age gap and the risk of dying