Childlessness and Older Americans’ Use of Health Care

Robert D. Plotnick, University of Washington

Childless older persons might use more health services than parents because they have worse health and cannot depend on children to provide care for minor ailments. They might use fewer services if they have better health or if children monitor their parents’ health and schedule appointments when medical problems develop, and otherwise help them obtain care. The study uses the HRS to examine childlessness’ relationship to physician visits, hospital and nursing home admissions and length of stays, out-patient surgery, and in-home health services. Regression and propensity score models find strong evidence that older childless men have longer stays in hospital, and good but less strong evidence that they are more likely to receive home health care. Older childless women and mothers consume health care services equally, with the possible exception that the childless are less likely to see a doctor.

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Presented in Session 209: Family Influences on Health and Mortality