Gender, the Marital Life Course, and Cardiovascular Disease in Late Midlife


Department of Sociology & Center for Family and Demographic Research, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403 (


Drawing on 5 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, we examine the influence of the marital life course on the prevalence and incidence of cardiovascular disease among 9,434 middle-aged individuals. Results show that compared to continuously married persons, both men and women with a marital loss have significantly higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease at baseline. Men and women, however, differ in the effects of marital loss on the incidence of cardiovascular disease over the course of the study. Women with a marital loss have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in late midlife compared to continuously married women, whereas marital loss is not associated with men’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Emotional distress and socioeconomic status account for the higher risk of cardiovascular disease among divorced women.