Ageing and Society

The socio-economic determinants of older people's health in Brazil: the importance of marital status and income

a1 Tusculum College, Greeneville, Tennessee, and School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
a2 Longitudinal Studies Section, Clinical Research Branch, National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Article author query
bos am   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
bos aj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Studies in various countries have reported that older people who are married have better health than older widows. This paper reports a replication of these analyses with Brazilian data. The main objective was to explore the relationships between marital status, individual and household income, and the health of men and women using ordered logistic regression with self-assessed health as the dependent variable. The explanatory variables of interest were gender, marital status, and individual and family income. The data are from a survey of 7,920 non-institutionalised older people resident in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul in 1995. The survey used a structured, multi-disciplinary questionnaire, which collected information on demographic attributes, household composition, social relations, occupation, income and health status. The results show that widows were 20 per cent more likely to report better health than married women. The women without individual income had worse health than those who did, even after controlling for family income. For men, there were no significant differences in health by marital status. The main recommendation is that the health status and economic circumstances of married elderly women should be given more attention in both research and policy, certainly in Brazil and probably in other Latin American countries. Programmes of income support to the poorest households should include specific transfers to these elderly women. Brazil's Family Health and Older People's Health public programmes should place more emphasis on the health of elderly home-makers.

(Accepted August 3 2006)

Key Words: older people; marital status; health; income; Brazil.

c1 Tusculum College, 60 Shiloh Road, Greeneville, Tennessee 37743, USA. E-mail: