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The health consequences of multiple roles at older ages in the UK

Increasing proportions of men and women are combining family (including care-giving) and work responsibilities in later life; however, the relationship between multiple role commitments and health at older ages remains unclear. Employing data from the longitudinal Retirement Survey (1988–1989 and 1994), the present authors applied logistic regression models to investigate the relationship between multiple role occupancy (1) cross-sectionally in 1988–1989 and health status in 1994; (2) retrospectively over the respondent's lifetime up to 1988–1989 and health outcomes in 1988–1989; and (3) retrospectively between 1988–1989 and 1994, and health status in 1994. The health outcomes considered were (1) general health status, (2) functional ability and (3) severity of disability category. Overall, simultaneous role occupancy (e.g. care-giving and employment) at older ages does not appear to be associated with poor health. The authors report a positive association between employment and health, as expected. There were mixed results concerning the association between care-giving and health. Where adverse health outcomes were found, the parental role, alone or in combination with other roles, was most frequently related to poor health. Thus, for a nationally representative sample of mid-life men and women, the combination of care-giving with other family and work roles appears to have few negative health consequences. Further research is needed on whether continued parental demands in mid-life have a negative impact on health.

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