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Living alone and psychological well-being in mid-life: does partnership history matter?
  1. Dieter Demey1,
  2. Ann Berrington1,
  3. Maria Evandrou2,
  4. Jane Falkingham1
  1. 1ESRC Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  2. 2ESRC Centre for Population Change, Centre for Research on Ageing, Social Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dieter Demey, ESRC Centre for Population Change, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton, Room 2043, Building 58, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK; D.Demey{at}


Background Previous studies have found that the duration since a union dissolution and the number of union dissolutions are associated with psychological well-being. However, these two aspects of partnership history have rarely been considered jointly in models of mental health. This study aims to investigate how the time since the most recent union dissolution and the number of union dissolutions are related to two indicators of psychological well-being—life satisfaction and the General Health Questionnaire—among middle-aged solo-living British men and women.

Methods Data from the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study from 2009 to 2010 are analysed for 1201 50–64 year olds who were living alone and have ever been in a co-resident union (472 men and 729 women). Logistic regression analysis is used to investigate how life satisfaction and General Health Questionnaire 12 (GHQ-12) caseness are associated with partnership characteristics.

Results GHQ-12 caseness is significantly and positively associated with the number of union dissolutions and negatively with the duration since the most recent union dissolution. This is the case among both genders, in models in which these partnership characteristics are entered separately and jointly, and in models controlling for parenthood status, socioeconomic status and physical health.

Conclusions The results suggest that there is a short-term deterioration in mental health after a partnership break-up and that experiencing multiple union dissolutions is detrimental for psychological well-being. The association between partnership characteristics and the two measures of psychological well-being differs, which is in line with previous research showing that negative affect and life satisfaction are two separate constructs.

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