Research Programme


Living arrangements in mid-life

Jane Falkingham, Dieter Demey, Ann Berrington, Maria Evandrou

Project summary

Objectives

Three studies on living arrangements in mid-life have been completed;

The first study investigates changes in the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of middle-aged British men and women over the past quarter century. The main aims of this study are to document trends in kin availability and living arrangements over time, and to describe changes in the demographic and socio-economic profile of the middle-aged over time (namely marital status, educational level, activity status and housing tenure). This study, published in the journal Population Trends, provides the overall demographic background for the following two studies.

The second study focusses on living alone in mid-life, a living arrangement which has become increasingly common in this age group. The main aims of this study are to investigate the partnership and parenthood trajectories of those living alone in mid-life, and to compare the socio-economic characteristics (1) of those living alone to those living with a partner, and (2), among those who are living alone, of those who have never been in a co-resident union to those who have ever lived together with a partner. This study also investigates the familial and economic resources of those living alone in later mid-life since these resources are associated with living arrangements and sources of support in later life. The work is published in the journal Advances in Life Course Research.

The third study investigates how partnership histories are associated with psychological well-being among those living alone in later mid-life. It further explores whether this association differs between two different indicators of psychological well-being because it is a multidimensional concept. The work is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Methods

For the first study, changes in kin availability over the past decade were captured by comparing data from the 2001 wave of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) with data from the 2009 wave from the United Kingdom Longitudinal Household Study (UKHLS). These two surveys are unique in that they ask respondents to report the presence of both co-resident and non-co-resident kin such as children, parents, or grandparents. Changes in living arrangements and the demographic and socio-economic profile of those in mid-life over time were identified using repeated cross-sectional data from the General Household Survey (GHS) for the period 1984 to 2007.

The two other studies used data from the UKHLS, which provides data on living arrangements, partnership histories and current partnership status, parenthood status, physical and mental health, and also on a wide range of demographic and socio-economic characteristics. An important advantage of this dataset is its large sample size, which enables us to investigate relatively small groups, such as those who are living alone in mid-life, and their characteristics. 

Findings

Key findings from the study which investigates changes in the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of middle-aged British men and women over the past quarter century are:

  • among those in mid-life, fewer have a child or grandchild, while more have a parent or grandparent than ten years ago. These changes reflect shifts towards lower and delayed fertility and the continuing increase in life expectancy;
  • amongst those in early mid-life who have children, more are living with dependent children today compared to 25 years ago, which reflects the shift to childbearing at later ages;
  • living alone in mid-life is on the rise, especially among men;
  • fewer people in mid-life are married, while more are divorced;
  • the socio-economic position of the middle-aged has improved, and differences between men and women have narrowed.

Key findings from the study on living alone in mid-life are:

  • partnership dissolution is the main partnership trajectory into living alone in mid-life;
  • a non-negligible proportion of solo-living men have never experienced a co-residential partnership;
  • in late mid-life substantially more solo-living women than men have non-residential children;
  • those living alone in mid-life have relatively lower socio-economic status than those living with a partner, which is especially the case for never partnered men in late mid-life.

Key findings from the study of partnership histories and wellbeing are:

  • GHQ-12 caseness is significantly and positively associated with the number of union dissolutions;
  • GHQ-12 caseness is significantly and negatively associated with the duration since the most recent union dissolution;
  • these findings were found for both genders, in models in which these partnership characteristics are entered separately and jointly, and in models controlling for parenthood status, socio-economic status and physical health;
  • the association between partnership characteristics and the two measures of psychological well-being differs, which is in line with previous research showing that negative affect and life satisfaction are two separate constructs.

 

Project activities

Date Activity Description
13 -16 June 2012. Presentation at the 'European Population Conference 2012' held in Stockholm The paper  'The demography of living alone in mid-life: a typology of solo-living in the United Kingdom' by Dieter Demey, Ann Berrington, Maria Evandrou and Jane Falkingham was presented at this event.

 

Publications

Demey, D., Berrington, A., Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J. (2011) The changing demography of mid-life, from the 1980s to the 2000s Population Trends 145,16-34.

Demey, D. Berrington, A. Evandrou, M. and  Falkingham, J. (2011) How has mid-life changed in Britain since the 1980s? CPC Briefing Paper 2, ESRC Centre for Population Change, UK.

Demey, D., Berrington, A., Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J. (2013) Pathways into living alone in mid-life: Diversity and policy implications. Advances in Life Course Research,18 (3),161-174.

Demey, D., Berrington, A., Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J. (2014) Living alone and psychological well-being in mid-life: Does partnership history matter? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.168 (5), 403-410.

 

Media activities

Who is living alone in mid-life and why does it matter?. Understanding Society website, December 2013.

Changing experiences of mid-life. Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) Case Study, February 2012. 

You can browse all CPC media outputs and population-related articles from CPC members on our Scoop.it! page.