Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 2 » Gender - Sex Ratios, Life Expectancy And Death Rates, Economic Status And Retirement, Marital Status, Living Arrangements, And Social Support

Gender - Marital Status, Living Arrangements, And Social Support

age differences women percent widowed age

In every region, at least one-third of older women are widowed (see Table 3). Rates of widowhood are especially high in northern Africa and central Asia, where almost three-fifths of Table 3 Widowhood rates (percentages) for men and women 60 years and older: 1985/1997 SOURCE: The World's Women 2000: Trends and Statistics. New York: United Nations, 2000. older women are widowed. In contrast, widowhood is much less common among men around the world. For example, only 7 percent of men in sub-Saharan Africa outlive their wives. In Africa, older women are over six times more likely to be widowed than older men.

Gender differences in marital status tend to increase with age. In the United States, at ages forty-five to fifty-four years old, the majority of both men and women are married (see Table 4), and only 7 percent of women and 9 percent of men in this age group have never been married. Widowhood is rare for men (1 percent) and very uncommon for women (4 percent). On the contrary, this age range represents the age at which the highest percent of women and men are divorced, with 18 percent of women and 14 percent of men being divorced. The picture changes considerably for those seventy-five years old and over. While the majority of men are still married at this age, only 30 percent of women in this age group are married. Instead, fully 60 percent of women seventy-five and older are widowed. In fact, the percentage of women widowed at ages seventy-five and older is 2.5 times greater than the percentage of men widowed.

Because women tend to be the survivors of marriage, they are also more likely to live alone Table 4 Marital status of males and females 45 and older: 1998 SOURCE: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1999. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau. or with someone else. This can be seen by looking at household headship. In every region of the world, women age sixty and older are more likely than older men to be household heads. In fact, almost one-half of older women in Europe are household heads. In the United States, women sixty-five years old and over are as likely to live alone as with a spouse, with 41 percent in each type of living arrangement. In contrast, only 17 percent of men sixty-five and older live alone, while 73 percent live with a spouse. In addition, only 10 percent of these men live with someone other than a spouse, compared to 18 percent of women this age.

Marital status can affect receipt of social support from children. Men who are divorced suffer disruptions in their relationships with their children, especially with their daughters. This may have consequences for caretaking, since disabled parents are more likely to receive care from their daughters. Widowhood may also have negative consequences for men's support networks. Men who are widowed receive less support from their children than those who are still married. In addition, women who are widowed more often develop friendships than men who are widowed, and women are more likely to receive support from friends. Even among older persons who are unmarried and childless, women receive more support than men. Generally, children report better relationships with their mothers than with their fathers. This may be due to the fact that women are more active in maintaining intergenerational relationships. Therefore, although older women are more likely than older men to find themselves widowed and living alone, they seem better equipped to manage their lives on their own, with some help from family and friends.

Gender - Gender Roles [next] [back] Gender - Economic Status And Retirement

User Comments

The following comments are not guaranteed to be that of a trained medical professional. Please consult your physician for advice.

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or