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“In Sickness and in Health:” Does Cohabitation Count?


Wu, Zheng; Penning, Margaret J.; Pollard, Michael S.; & Hart, Randy (2003). "In Sickness and in Health:" Does Cohabitation Count?. Journal of Family Issues, 24(6), 811-838.


Using data from the 1994-95 (Canadian) National Population Health Survey (6,494 women, 5,368 men), we investigated the impact of cohabitation on a range of physical and mental health indicators, controlling for self-selection into cohabitation and other relevant factors. Uncontrolled results indicate that the physical and mental health of cohabitors tends to fall between that of the married and the divorced/separated, widowed, and single/never married. However, when other factors are controlled, health differences between cohabitors and the currently married become nonsignificant. Self-selection, into cohabitation and into marriage, initially appears to play a significant role in accounting for variations in health, but with controls added to the models, selection mostly becomes nonsignificant. We concluded that self-selection at most may explain a small proportion of the variation in health but that protection effects are more likely to explain the positive health advantages of marriage and cohabitation.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of Family Issues


Wu, Zheng
Penning, Margaret J.
Pollard, Michael S.
Hart, Randy