Midlife crisis: Unmarried older women twice as likely to lack health insurance, study shows

February 24, 2010

Older women who are divorced, separated or widowed or who have never married have twice the uninsured rate of their married peers, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The study, "Health and Health Care Access Among California Women Ages 50󈞬," examines a range of health issues and trends among California's approximately 3 million older women, an age group that often faces new and accelerated chronic health conditions, according to lead author Roberta Wyn, associate director of the center.

"It's a time of critical change for older women," Wyn said. "Not only are they at risk of new and complex health conditions, but as they near the age of retirement, their insurance status may change too."

Women between the ages of 50 and 64 are more prone than younger women to a wide range of health conditions, including asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Nearly four in 10 women in this age group will be diagnosed with high blood pressure, while nearly six in 10 are either obese or overweight. In both cases, the percentages are higher than for younger women.

The researchers also found that the likelihood of having health insurance was related to a woman's marital status. Using data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey, Wyn and her co-author found that one-quarter of older women who had never married and 21 percent of divorced, separated or widowed women were uninsured -- more than twice the rates of married women.

"These women have fewer coverage options, including access to family coverage, and Medicare is still several years away for many," Wyn said.

Among all women, low-income women are the most likely to be uninsured (34 percent) and the least likely to have employment-based coverage (24 percent), according to the policy brief.

Lack of insurance can result in a delay in accessing needed care. One-third (32 percent) of uninsured women aged 50 to 64 reported that they delayed or did not get needed medical care in the past year, a rate twice as high as that for women with employment-based coverage in this age group.

Uninsured women between 50 and 64 were also much more likely to report not having had a Pap test during the previous three years than women with employment-based coverage (28 percent vs. 5 percent) and were more likely to report not having had a mammogram during the previous two years (39 percent vs. 10 percent).

The data was collected in 2007, before the recession, and Wyn noted that "the economic recession and subsequent widespread job loss may have pushed uninsurance rates even higher."

Wyn stressed the need for expanded health insurance coverage and access to care to address the rising health issues and often costly health conditions associated with aging.

The study authors also stressed the need for proactive policies and programs that promote healthy behaviors and environments to help stem the rising rates of obesity in this age group.

Read the policy brief, "Health and Health Care Access Among California Women Ages 50󈞬."

The California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) is the nation's largest state health survey and one of the largest health surveys in the United States.
-end-
The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research is one of the nation's leading health policy research centers and the premier source of health-related information on Californians.

For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.

University of California - Los Angeles

Related Health Insurance Articles from Brightsurf:

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

How common for cancer survivors to stay at jobs for health insurance?
This survey study looked at how often cancer survivors in the United States and their spouses or partners stay in their jobs because of concerns about losing their health insurance.

New health insurance insights
MIT economists analyze how patients and health care providers value Medicaid.

New health insurance benefit at U-M led to increased rates of IVF
In a new research letter appearing in JAMA detailing a first-of-its-kind study, a University of Michigan team compared the use of IVF among university employees before and after the addition of an insurance coverage benefit, finding a marked increase in the rate of use.

Financial hardship in cancer: The role of health insurance literacy
A new American Cancer Society study links health insurance literacy with medical financial hardship as well as non-medical financial sacrifices among adult cancer survivors in the United States.

Health insurance rule could help millions spend less for the care they need
Millions of Americans with chronic conditions could save money on the drugs and medical services they need the most, if their health insurance plans decide to take advantage of a new federal rule issued today.

Health insurance idea born at U-M could help millions of Americans spend less
New federal rule could reduce out-of-pocket costs for key drugs and services for people with chronic conditions in high-deductible health plans with health savings accounts.

Health insurance is not assurance of healthcare
Because of high out-of-pocket expenses, Ohioans who purchase subsidized health-exchange insurance often can't afford the care they need when they need it.

Study details poverty, lack of health insurance among female health care workers
A study carried out by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania finds that low wages and poor benefits leave many female health care workers living below the poverty line.

Is TV advertising for health insurance worth the expense? A new study says, 'maybe not'
A new study to be published in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science has revealed that health insurance has a small effect on brand enrollments, raising the question of whether health insurance television advertising is worth the expense.

Read More: Health Insurance News and Health Insurance Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.