Widowhood and Volunteering Among Older Adults: Gendered Pathways Before and After Partner’s Death

Danilo Bolano , University of Lausanne
Bruno Arpino, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

This study investigates gender and socio-demographic differences in pathways of engagement in volunteering before and after transition to widowhood. Losing a spouse is one of the most traumatic events in the life course of an individual. Widowhood is associated with increasing risk of death, higher levels of physiological and mental distress, negative social and economic consequences. Being socially active is a key predictor towards living longer and healthier lives. Drawing on longitudinal data from HRS, we investigate, using FE models to account for unobserved heterogeneity, rate of adaptation and potential anticipatory effects on the propensity of volunteering before and after spousal loss. Results shows a decline in volunteering activities even before the death of the partner and then a slight process of adaptation and recovery. Sociodemographic factors influences such pathways. Women are strongly more resilient than men, and individuals with higher level of education are more likely to quick recovery after bereavement.

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