For Better and for Worse: Positive and Negative Effects of Divorce on Self-Assessed Health in European Panel Data

Christiaan W. S. Monden, University of Oxford
Wilfred Uunk, Tilburg University

We investigate the association between divorce and self-assessed health with European panel data. Previous studies suggest that this association is negative, yet it is unknown whether this reflects causation or selection. Our fixed effect panel analyses on eight waves from the European Community Household Panel show that the negative association between divorce and self-assessed health is not due to a general negative causal effect of divorce on self-assessed health. Rather, we find that after divorce self-assessed health improves among some divorcees, while for others it declines. The continuously married show significantly less volatility. We also find evidence for a negative effect of self-assessed health on divorce risks. There seems to be an effect of prolonged poor health rather than an immediate effect of a health decline. Our results suggest the complexity of divorce effect goes beyond causation versus selection: divorce leads to health change, both positively and negatively.

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Presented in Session 22: Family Instability: Causes and Consequences II