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This study examined the socioeconomic pathways linking partnership status to physical functioning, assessed using objective measures of late life physical functioning, including peak flow and grip strength. Using Wave 4 of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), we ran multilevel models to examine the relationship between partnership status and physical function in late life, adjusting for social-network characteristics, socioeconomic factors, and health behaviours. We found a robust relationship between partnership status and physical function. Incorporating social-network characteristics, socioeconomic factors, and health behaviours showed independent robust relationships with physical function. Co-variates attenuated the impact of cohabitation, separation, and widowhood on physical function; robust effects were found for singlehood and divorce. Sex-segregated analyses suggest that associations between cohabitation, singlehood, divorce, and widowhood were larger for men than for women. Results suggest that social ties are important to improved physical function.
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