Is Marriage Protecting Your Health in Recession Times?

UB Economics Working Papers E16/343

21 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2016

See all articles by Joan Gil

Joan Gil

University of Barcelona

Date Written: April 20, 2016


This paper aims to contribute to the literature on the protective effects of marriage on individuals’ health by examining whether this advantage is still valid in recession times. A two stage empirical strategy is followed based on individual-level cross-section data for Spain. Using propensity score matching techniques we firstly estimate the causal impact of divorce and legal separation (marital dissolution) on mental health and binge drinking in two different points in time: before and during the economic crisis. Secondly, we examine whether there exists an incremental or detrimental effect on these health outcomes implied by the economic recession using difference-in-difference (DiD) regression methods, upon conditioning on a proxy of innate health status. The results confirm that divorce and separation cause a large and significant deterioration of mental health and a raise in heavy drinking both before the economic recession and after (during) the crisis. Strikingly, we find that this detrimental effect on psychological health is actually lowered because of the recession, although this amelioration on mental health is observed for male individuals. However, heavy drinking does not seem to worsen more with divorce/separation during the economic downturn. These findings, which appear robust to the sensitivity analysis, would then suggest that the marriage institution, contrary to what is generally believed, would not be protecting mental health status, mainly in male individuals, under a period of economic crisis. We speculate that divorce/separation may act as an escape mechanism to confront the usual financial constraints and other stress-related issues which are strengthened during a prolonged period of recession.

Keywords: Menatl health, Marriage, Recession

JEL Classification: I10, I12, J12.

Suggested Citation

Gil, Joan, Is Marriage Protecting Your Health in Recession Times? (April 20, 2016). UB Economics Working Papers E16/343. Available at SSRN: or

Joan Gil (Contact Author)

University of Barcelona ( email )

Department of Economic Theory
Faculty of Economics
Barcelona, Barcelona 08034

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