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Family life courses and later life health and mortality

Family life courses and later life health and mortality

Partnership and parenting form important elements of most people’s lives and a large part of Emily Grundy’s research over the past five years has focussed on examining the influence of marital and fertility histories on health and well-being in later life.

Studies carried out in collaboration with Oystein Kravdal (University of Oslo), Cecilia Tomassini (University of Molise) Sanna Read (LSHTM) Doug Wolf (Syracuse University), John Henretta (University of Florida) and others using data from the UK, Norway and the USA have shown that timing of childbearing, number of children and length of birth intervals are all associated with differentials in mortality and health, and also quality of life, at older ages. However there appear to be important contextual differences, for example whereas in the in the UK and USA high parity (large family size) appears to bring later health disadvantages, this is not the case in Norway where family supports for parents are greater. Marital trajectories are also important.

In continuing work undertaken as part of the Pathways programme we are working on unpicking the mechanisms whereby these life course factors link to later health, investigating, for example, the extent to which they are mediated by health related behaviours and by social support.


Key publications include:

  • Grundy E, Tomassini C (2005). Fertility history and health in later life: a record linkage study in England and Wales. Social Science & Medicine, 61:217-228.
  • Grundy E and Kravdal Ø. (2008). Reproductive history and mortality in late middle age among Norwegian men and women. American Journal of Epidemiology 167 (3):271-279.
  • Henretta JC, Grundy EMD, Okell LC, Wadsworth MEJ (2008). Early motherhood and mental health in midlife: a study of British and American cohorts. Aging & Mental Health 12(5):605-14.
  • Grundy E and Tomassini C (2006) [appeared 2008]. Fatherhood history and later life health and mortality in England and Wales: a record linkage study. Social Biology 53: (3-4), 189-205.
  • Grundy E. (2009). Women’s fertility and mortality in late mid life: a comparison of three contemporary populations. American Journal of Human Biology 21, 4: 541-547
  • Grundy Emily M D and Tomassini C (2010). T: Marital history, health and mortality among older men and women in England and Wales BMC Public Health, 10: 554
  • Grundy E and Kravdal O (2010). Fertility history and cause-specific mortality: a register-based analysis of complete cohorts of Norwegian women and men. Social Science & Medicine. 70(11):1847-57.
  • Read, S. & Grundy, E (2011) Mental health among older married couples: the role of gender and family life. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 46 (4):331-41.
  • Read S and Grundy E (2011). Fertility history and quality of life in older women and men. Ageing & Society 31, 1–21.
  • Read S, Grundy E and Wolf D (2011). Fertility history, health and health trajectories in later life: A study of older women and men in the British Household Panel Survey. Population Studies, 65(2):201-15.
  • Blomgren J, Martikainen P, Grundy E, Koskinen S. (2012). Marital history 1971-91 and mortality 1991-2004 in England & Wales and Finland. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 66: 30-26. Epub 2010 Oct 5. PMID: 20924052
  • Kravdal O, Grundy E, Lyngstad T H, Wilk K A A (2012). Family life history and late mid-life mortality in Norway. Population and Development Review, 38 (2): 237-257.