Published Papers - Abstract 197

Cwikel J, Gramotnev H & Lee C. Never-married childless women: Health and social circumstances in older age. Social Science and Medicine, 2006; 62(8): 1991-2001

A growing proportion of women reach older age without having married or having children. Assumptions that these older women are lonely, impoverished, and high users of social and health services are based on little evidence. This paper uses data from the Older cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health to describe self-reported demographics, physical and emotional health, and use of services among 10,108 women aged 73-78, of whom 2.7% are never-married and childless. The most striking characteristic of this group is their high levels of education, which are associated with fewer reported financial difficulties and higher rates of private health insurance. There are few differences in self-reported physical or emotional health or use of health services between these and other groups of older women. Compared with older married women with children, they make higher use of formal services such as home maintenance and meal services,and are also more likely to provide volunteer services and belong to social groups. Overall, there is no evidence to suggest that these women are a “problem” group. Rather, it seems that their life experiences and opportunities prepare them for a successful and productive older age.