Multiple Disadvantage in Midlife and Old Age - Exploring the Associations

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Josephine HEAP , Department of Social Work, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
To experience multiple disadvantage – the simultaneous occurrence of disadvantages such as health problems, lack of economic resources or social isolation – implies reduced possibilities for people to manage daily life. The prevalence of multiple disadvantage has been found to be much higher among older adults (especially those older than 80) than among younger age groups. In this study, we investigate whether multiple disadvantage in old age was preceded by multiple disadvantage in midlife, or if the accumulation of disadvantages may have happened later in life.

Previous research has established that individuals’ health and resources in old age are strongly correlated with their health and resources in midlife, making midlife a crucial starting point for the study of old age. However, old age is often associated with a decline in resources such as health and social resources, making it plausible that this is a period of life is a time when disadvantages accumulate.

In this study, we test the association between multiple disadvantage in midlife and multiple disadvantage in old age by drawing on longitudinal, nationally representative data from Sweden from 1974 (when respondents were aged 40-59) and 2011 (age 77-96). Preliminary results go in two directions. On the one hand, results indicate that people with multiple disadvantage in midlife were likely to experience multiple disadvantage also in old age. On the other hand, around one-third of those who experienced multiple disadvantage in old age reported no problems in midlife. Thus, for a considerable proportion of those reporting multiple disadvantage in old age it may be a relatively recent experience, suggesting that there are different pathways into deprivation in old age. Further analyses will aim at describing the plausible pathways and target the issue whether certain pathways are associated with certain kinds of disadvantages.