OBJECTIVE: Aged pension schemes aim to support material and non-material well-being of older populations. The current work aimed to describe dominant trajectories of material living standards in the decades prior to and following eligibility for an aged pension, and describe associated trajectories of physical and mental health. METHODS: Longitudinal data on living standards and indices of health Short Form 12 were collected over 2-12 years follow-up from 4811 New Zealand adults aged 55-76. Growth mixture models were used to identify dominant trajectories of living standards with age. Latent growth curve models were used to describe trajectories of physical and mental health associated with each living standards trajectory class. RESULTS: A group characterised by good living standards with age (81.5%) displayed physical and mental health scores comparable to those of the general adult population. Smaller groups experienced hardship but increasing living standards (11.8%) and hardship and declining living standards (6.8%). While both groups in hardship experienced poor health in the decade prior pension eligibility, mental health improved among those with increasing living standards, while physical and mental health declined among those with declining living standards. CONCLUSION: Under the current policy settings, a majority of older adults in New Zealand maintain a good level of living standards and health in later life. However, significant proportions experience material hardship and poor health in the decade prior to pension eligibility. Alleviation of material hardship may reduce health inequalities in later life.
J Epidemiol Community Health, 2020, 74 (4), pp. 362 - 368
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