Is Being Childless Detrimental to a Woman's Health and Well-Being Across Her Life Course? Academic Article uri icon


  • Childlessness is a growing phenomenon. Previous research examining health and well-being differentials between women with and without children has produced conflicting results. Most of this research has been conducted in the United States or parts of Europe. There has been limited research in Australia that has examined the health and well-being of women with and without children across the life course. The aim of the current study was to examine the association between motherhood status and general physical and mental health and well-being over a 10-year time period.Using 10 waves of data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study, longitudinal linear mixed models with time varying variables (both dependent and independent) were constructed to assess the effect of childlessness on health and well-being based on the Short Form-36 Health Survey Version 1 (n=52,381 observations).Findings suggest that childless women experience poorer physical and mental health and well-being during the peak reproductive years; however, this trend is reversed for women aged 65 years or more. Although never-married, childless women experienced better health and well-being compared with mothers, this was not the case for childless women who were divorced, separated, or widowed or in a relationship.The findings support the notion that whether or not a woman has children does have consequences for her health and well-being; however, this differs across the life course.

publication date

  • 2015