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Non-marital cohabitation among older Finns: a register-based study on socioeconomic characteristics and union dissolution

Heta Moustgaard, University of Helsinki

Non-marital cohabitation has increased substantially among the elderly. Our objective was to enhance understanding of such unions by comparing elderly cohabiters with the married according to socioeconomic status and union dissolution. We used population registration data on Finns aged 65 and older living with a cohabiting partner or a married spouse in 1997 (n=140,902). The participants were characterised according to various socioeconomic indicators and followed for separation, institutionalisation, bereavement and death until 2002. Elderly cohabitation almost doubled between 1990 and 2003, with 3.4% of men and 2.1% of women currently cohabiting. In socioeconomic terms, the cohabiting elderly were mostly less privileged than the married. Non-marital unions seemed somewhat less protective than marriages against institutionalisation and death. Furthermore, cohabiters had a substantially higher risk of separation which puts them at a higher risk of losing potential care and support provided by co-resident partners.

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Presented in Poster Session 4: Poster Session 4: health and ageing