Relationship Status-Based Health Disparities during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Academic Article


  • Previous research finds that marriage is a privileged family form with health benefits. These health advantages may have shifted during the pandemic, as more time was spent at home and resources strained. This study compares differences in three health outcomes across relationship statuses between April and December 2020 using a nationally-representative US survey, the Household Pulse Survey (N = 1,422,733). As the pandemic progressed, larger differences emerged when comparing married and never married respondents’ probabilities of fair or poor health, depression, and anxiety as never married people had the steepest decline in health, even adjusting for pandemic-related stressors (e.g., food insufficiency). Yet, widowed and divorced/separated respondents’ greater probabilities of these three health outcomes compared to married respondents’ narrowed over this same period. During the pandemic, relationship status and self-rated health patterns were similar for men and women, but for mental health there was evidence that the growing advantage of marriage relative to never being married was more pronounced for men, whereas the shrinking advantage of marriage relative to being previously married was more pronounced for women. This study identifies the unique health needs for never married adults during the pandemic, demonstrating that social conditions around the pandemic likely exacerbated health disparities by relationship status.
  • Published In

  • Social Currents  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 25288716
  • Author List

  • Thomeer MB