|Title||Parental Death Across the Life Course, Social Isolation, and Health in Later Life: Racial/Ethnic Disadvantage in the U.S.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2023|
|Authors||Donnelly, R, Lin, Z, Umberson, D|
|Keywords||health, later life, parental death, racial disadvantage, social isolation, United States|
Bereavement is a risk factor for poor health, yet prior research has not considered how exposure to parental death across the life course may contribute to lasting social isolation and, in turn, poor health among older adults. Moreover, prior research often fails to consider the racial context of bereavement in the United States wherein Black and Hispanic Americans are much more likely than White Americans to experience parental death earlier in life. The present study uses longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS; 1998–2016) to consider linkages of parental death, social isolation, and health (self-rated health, functional limitations) for Black, Hispanic, and White older adults. Findings suggest that exposure to parental death is associated with higher levels of isolation, greater odds of fair/poor self-rated health, and greater odds of functional limitations in later life. Moreover, social isolation partially explains associations between parental bereavement and later-life health. These patterns persist net of psychological distress—an additional psychosocial response to bereavement. Racial inequities in bereavement are central to disadvantage: Black and Hispanic adults are more likely to experience a parent’s death earlier in the life course, and this differential exposure to parental death in childhood or young adulthood has implications for racial and ethnic inequities in social isolation and health throughout life.