Kinlessness and Mortality Risk: Higher Mortality for Those Lacking Close Kin in Older Age

Sarah Patterson , University of Western Ontario
Rachel Margolis, University of Western Ontario
Ashton Verdery, Pennsylvania State University

Research on mortality among older adults without available family has found elevated risks of mortality for those who are single or childless, but it has not compared across multiple types of older adult family structure. Drawing on recent research documenting rising levels of kinless older adults, we use the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to examine how older adult survival patterns differ between those who have different combinations of partner/spouse, any children, and any living siblings. We then test three mechanisms that may explain differences in survivorship by family structure including social connectedness, physical health, and economic security. We find strong associations between older adult family structure and mortality and that the risk varies by the set of available kin with mechanisms only explaining a small amount of these associations. These findings have implications for older adults, the social support system and safety net, and public policies.

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 Presented in Session 179. Aging Alone and Well-being