The impact of pensions on health and wellbeing in rural South Africa: Does gender matter?

Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. Electronic address: .
Social Science [?] Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 07/2012; 75(10):1864-73. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.07.004
Source: PubMed


Unique to Africa, a means-tested non-contributory pension is available to South Africans. In 2006, women over 60 and men over 65 were pension-eligible. To explore the effect of the pension for health and wellbeing indicators of rural South African men and women, we analyze data from the WHO-INDEPTH Study of Global Ageing and Adult Health Survey, carried out in the Agincourt sub-district by the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) in 2006. Because pension receipt was not measured directly, our findings represent intent-to-treat (ITT) rather than treatment-on-the-treated (TOT) effects using age as an indicator for intent-to-treat. Overall, women report poorer wellbeing compared to men. However, women have a "honeymoon" period at ages 60-64, the first years of pension-eligibility, in which they report lower levels of worry and sadness, and higher overall happiness, life satisfaction, and quality of life as compared to younger and older women. For men, in contrast, reports of wellbeing worsen in the pre-pension years, followed by a similar but not as prominent pattern of favorable reports in the five years following pension-eligibility, and a decline in the next five-year period. Thus, while pensions continue to enhance financial wellbeing, our results suggest that their effect on social wellbeing may be gendered and transitory. Further research is needed to improve understanding of these dynamics.

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    • "Studies have found a U-shaped relationship between age and happiness (Blanchflower and Oswald, 2008; De Ree and Alessie, 2011; Schatz et al., 2012). Thus, it is hypothesized that happiness level would be higher for younger individuals and older individuals but lower for middle–aged individuals. "
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    • "The pension , about US$150 per month, is generally pooled and used to sustain the entire household rather than sole use by the pensioner (Case & Deaton, 1998). Pension receipt improves the health and well-being of both the pensioner and other members of the household (Ardington et al., 2010; Schatz et al., 2012) but also may reduce the likelihood of other adults being employed (Bertrand et al., 2003). This suggests that pensioners might be attractive household members and thus more likely than those not yet pension eligible to be living in multigenerational households and playing a productive role in those households. "
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