Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jeffrey A. Burr

Second Advisor

Jan E. Mutchler

Third Advisor

Kène Henkens


The aim of this dissertation was to contribute to our understanding of the health consequences of retirement by proposing three major theory-driven research questions, set within a life course perspective. The first and second research questions addressed whether retirement transitions are associated with subsequent health for the retiree, as well as the partner. That is, given the coupled-nature of retirement transition for many married individuals, the question of the health consequences of retirement was examined in the context of married relationships. Importantly, by focusing on married individuals, I also investigated whether there are cross-spousal health consequences of retirement. The third research question addressed whether the linkages between retirement transitions and the health vary depending on a number of contextual factors concerning the experience of retirement.

This study was based on nine waves of biennial data (1998¬–2014) from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). I took advantage of the household panel structure of the HRS data to examine individuals nested within couples over time, employing an actor-partner interdependence model (APIM) framework to estimate the health effects of one’s own and spouse’s retirement. To account for potential reverse causality, retirement decisions that are unrelated to health and those that are reported as caused by poor health were specified separately in the analyses. Omitted variable bias was addressed using within-between random effects models.

Findings indicated that retirement transitions driven by non-health reasons were unrelated to subsequent self-rated health of both wives and husbands, whereas the transition was associated with an increased number of depressive symptoms for husband, but not wives. In contrast, retirement transitions driven by poor health were consistently associated with worse health outcomes, as assessed with self-rated health and depressive symptoms, for both wives and husbands. As for the partner effects of retirement transitions, the findings indicated that spousal retirement transitions were largely unrelated to changes in subsequent health. I further found that actor effects of retirement transitions were significantly moderated by a number of different contextual factors. The findings provide support for implementing policy measures to facilitate longer working lives of older married individuals, especially those in compromised health conditions.


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