Spousal health effects: the role of selection

Publication type

Research Paper


James Banks, Elaine Kelly and James P. Smith

Publication date

Series Number



In this paper, we investigate the issue of partner selection in the health of individuals who are at leastfifty years old in England and the United States. We find a strong and positive association in familybackground variables including education of partners and their parents. Adult health behaviors suchas smoking, drinking, and exercise are more positively associated in England compared to the UnitedStates. Childhood health indicators are also positively associated across partners.We also investigated pre and post partnership smoking behavior of couples. There exists strong positiveassortative mating in smoking in that smokers are much more likely to partner with smokers and non-smokerswith non-smokers. This relationship is far stronger in England compared to the United States. In theUnited States, we find evidence of asymmetric partner influence in smoking in that men’s pre marriagesmoking behavior influences his female partner’s post marriage smoking behavior but there does notappear to be a parallel influence of women’s pre-marriage smoking on their male partner’s post-maritalsmoking. These relationships are much more parallel across genders in England.


Older People, Well Being and Health


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