Mental health of the couple influences more the welfare of the individual as age advances

10 de July de 2019

In a recent publication in the prestigious journal The European Journal of Health Economics (JCR impact factor 2,169, quartile 1) under the title “Partner's depression and quality of life among older Europeans” three members of the R&D&i Group in Health Economics and Health Services Management UC-IDIVAL study how the mental health of the couple influences the individual welfare of the spouse.

Mental health is related, according to empirical evidence at the international level, to worse living conditions of the population, placing itself as one of the main items in the political agendas in recent times. In this way, in this research, the “splillover or externality” effects of mental health within European households are studied given their wide heterogeneity.

To carry out the study, Professors Pascual-Sáez, Cantarero-Prieto and Blázquez-Fernández consider a sample of couples (married, registered, or living together) of the Health, Aging and Retirement panel survey in Europe (in English SHARE). Specifically, they determine the impact that the couple's mental health has on the well-being of their spouse, in addition to analyzing the main characteristics of individual and sociodemographic health. The study is carried out for 18 European countries, showing clear differences between the Mediterranean countries (“family-type”) and non-Mediterranean countries.

The empirical findings corroborate that there is a significant “spillover or externality” effect of mental health within households (OR = 1.51, 95% C.I. 1.43, 1.59). In addition, respondents who work or those who live in rural areas would be less likely to report poor quality of life or well-being. At the same time, the age of the individual, self-perceived health and educational level would also be key factors in the future of the subject in terms of well-being.

In this way, the authors come to emphasize that there is a strong “empathy” between couples, regardless of whether a man or a woman is the interviewed subject. This is, once controlled by the traditional individual factors (age, education or employment status), the evidence available with thousands of data from European households shows the strong interdependence of the closest environment and reaffirms once again the “cushion” effect that has to the negative consequences of unwanted loneliness (already shown by these same authors in the article published in Plos ONESocial isolation and multiple chronic diseases after age 50: A European macro-regional analysis).

These findings of the R&D&I Group in Health Economics and Management of Health Services UC-IDIVAL are of fundamental importance for the design of public policies that consider the social perspective of well-being in general, as well as the mental health policy, in particular.