Fertility Histories and Health in Later Life in Italy

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Abstract

The importance of life course influences on health differentials in later life has been increasingly recognised. Parenthood represents a major domain of most people’s lives with short and long-term implications. Apart from the physiological and psychological effects of pregnancy and childbirth, the health of both women and men may be influenced by stresses, role changes, and changes in allocation of personal and family resources associated with childrearing and by the emotional and social support benefits of parenthood. The associations of fertility history indicators on health have been rarely studied in familialistic countries such as Italy. In a familialistic country with strong family ties, frequent contact between generations may play a significant role in enhancing the role of parenthood against childlessness, especially for the subjective indicators of health. Additionally it should be stressed that familialistic countries are characterised by the unbalanced division of house and care work: women’s multiple roles may affect (positively for the “role enhancing theory” or negatively for the “role strain model”) the perception of their health status. This study aims to understand how fertility quantum and tempo components may have an effect on different health indicators (self-rated health, presence of limitations, ADL, IADL, and depression score) at ages 50 and above, controlling for a set of demographic and socio-economic indicators. We use data from the Italian Survey on Family and Social Relations 2009, and the pooled baseline interviews of the waves 1 and 2 of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), for Italian respondents for whom information on their fertility history had been collected. We define individual fertility biographies by parity, early and late fertility, and spacing and explore their effect on both gender. These relations are analysed by taking different socio-economic indicators into consideration in order to control for these confounding factors. Conclusions Our results provide additional insight on how fertility histories may influence health in later life. Concentration of fertility in low parities and a reduction of early pregnancies among younger cohorts of women may have a positive effect on health in the future, while men’s health seems not to be significantly influenced by fertility histories variables.

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Tomassini, C., Di Gessa, G., & Egidi, V. (2018). Fertility Histories and Health in Later Life in Italy. In A Demographic Perspective on Gender, Family and Health in Europe (pp. 263–281). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-72356-3_11

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