Productive Activities and Subjective Wellbeing Among Older Adults: A Couple-Level Analysis

Danilo Bolano, University of Lausanne
Jack Lam, University of Queensland


Objectives. We theorize and test the subjective wellbeing of older adults as a result of their own activity engagement, as well as a product of their spouse’s engagement.

Method. We draw on 15 waves of couple-level data, where at least one partner is older than 65, from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. Drawing on responses of time engaged in nine different activities, we estimate Latent Class Models to describe the activity profiles of older adults. Further, we examine the activity profiles of spouses to investigate whether it is associated with respondents’ own self-rated health and mental health one year later, controlling for respondents’ activity profile.

Result. We identified four activity profiles of older men (Community engaged, Employed, Caregiver, and Inactive) and three of older women (Community engaged, Caregiver, and Inactive). We find that beyond older adults’ own activity profile, their spouse’s engagement is associated with well-being one year later. For men, having a wife who is community engaged is associated with better wellbeing. For women, having a husband who is community engaged is also associated with better subjective wellbeing, though there are only slight differences between having a husband who is community engaged or inactive.

Discussion. Our findings contribute to existing research by linking the activity engagement of the spouse of older adults with their subjective wellbeing. In lagging the activity engagement of older adults and their spouses to examine the associations with wellbeing, we are also able to sort out temporal ordering, addressing potential selection issues. Our findings highlight the value of considering the engagement of the spouses of older adults, as it may influence and constrain opportunities to engage in various activities, as well as crossover to affect their wellbeing.

Presented in Session 1129: Ageing and Intergenerational Relations