INTRODUCTION: There is strong evidence for the importance of previous employment for mental health at older age but little is known about the role of partner's employment history in this. Life course theory suggests that individual trajectories are linked and evidence from cross-sectional studies suggest that there are cross-over effects within couples. Therefore, the present study tests the interdependence of own and partner's employment history and their relationship with depressive symptoms.
METHODS: Analyses are based on retrospective data from the SHARE survey for 5664 long-term couples aged 50 or older, with employment information for each age between 30 and 50 (full-time, part-time, domestic work or non-employed). We use sequence analysis to group similar employment histories and relate own and partner's employment histories with depressive symptoms (EURO-D) using regression models.
RESULTS: Results show that own and partner's employment history are interdependent and mainly follow traditional divisions of paid work, with the majority of men working full-time and women often working part-time or not working. We find increased depressive symptoms after longer episodes of non-employment for men but not for women, regardless of partner's employment situation.
CONCLUSION: The study shows that mental health later in life is related to own employment history and that this relationship is not moderated by partner's employment history. The results need to be interpreted against cultural and gender role norms at the time.
- Life course
- Employment history
- Sequence analysis