Nonmarital Cohabitation and Health

Michael S. Pollard, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Kathleen Mullan Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A considerable amount of research has established that the married live longer, healthier lives than the previously- and never-married. Similar research on the health benefits of cohabitation is sparse. Using longitudinal data from AddHealth and generalized linear model techniques we investigate the impact of nonmarital cohabitation on a range of physical and mental health indicators and health behaviors. We also examine the mechanisms through which cohabitation affects health (i.e., selection and protection) and contrast the health effects of cohabitation with those reported for marriage. Preliminary results indicate that cohabitors report lower physical health than married or single individuals, but that cohabiting males receive some mental health benefits relative to singles. Cohabiting men and women also engage in some better health behaviors than singles. There also appears to be substantial selection into cohabitation by individuals with relatively low physical and mental health that contributes to the observed health differentials.

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Presented in Session 53: Marital Status, Partnership Status, and Health