Health effects of work and family transitions




health outcomes, disruptions, divorce, job loss


Disruptive life events, including transitions in work or family structure, affect health. Research often focuses on one transition rather than thinking of an event framework in which respondents experience multiple transitions across qualitatively distinct domains. This paper contributes original evidence on the effects of event interaction, transition timing, and multiple occurrences of events on health outcomes. I look at employment loss, employment gain, marriage, and divorce as instances of disruptive transitions or instability in the life course; I analyse these events’ effects on self-rated health and depression at ages 40 and 50. I show that employment losses and divorces have significant negative effects on health, and employment gains and marriages show smaller positive effects or null effects. Higher counts of transitions lead to stronger effects on health. Respondents who are older at event occurrence show larger negative effects, suggesting that work and family instability at early ages is not as detrimental to health as such instability at later ages. These results show that there are similarities across work and family domains in effects on health outcomes; moreover, experiencing several transitions can lead to overlaps in effects that might lessen or worsen health outcomes overall.