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Collecting information on marital status: a methodological note
  1. G Barrett,
  2. K Wellings
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr G Barrett, Health Promotion Research Unit, Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK;

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Marital status is often probed in epidemiological, public health, and social surveys, and has been shown to be associated with various health outcomes. However, in the past 25 years there has been a trend towards cohabitation, and higher rates of divorce and remarriage.1 Birth registration data also show that nearly 40% of births are outside marriage, a large proportion of which are to cohabiting couples.2 The way in which data are collected has tended to reflect the increase in cohabitation; “living with partner” tends to be an additional category of marital status, for example, Johnson et al.3 In our recent work (a study to develop a measure of unplanned pregnancy) we wanted to identify both women's marital status and who they were …

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  • Funding: GB was funded by a Medical Research Council/London Region special training fellowship in health services research.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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