Early Marriage and Health of Women in India: Evidence of “Weathering” in Mid-Life

Kriti Vikram , National University of Singapore
Zheng Mu, National University of Singapore

Using the 2005 and 2012 waves of the nationally representative India Human Development Survey, this paper investigates the link between early marriage and self-rated health, chronic conditions and functional limitations among women. Early marriage, defined as marriage at or before the age of 18 years, is negatively associated with self-rated health among women in India. This disadvantage exists even after accounting for socio-economic status of the family, education of the women and her husband, her fertility and empowerment status within the household. Additionally, early marriage is associated with chronic conditions and functional limitations in middle age. Women who were married early also experienced worsening of health over the two waves. The fact that this worsening is also evident in middle-aged women is suggestive of “early weathering of health” due to the stresses and strains of early marriage. Early marriage may set women on the path of lifelong health disadvantage in India.

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 Presented in Session 4. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions