Childcare, breadwinning and mortality in the Swedish parental cohort of 1988/89

Anna Mansdotter , Aki Tsuchiya, Mona Backhans, Johan Hallqvist, Michael Lundberg, Andreas Lundin, Lars Lindholm


The division of parenthood into male breadwinning and female caring is a key component of the gender system. It could also contribute to the gender gap in longevity.
The overall objective of this study was to examine the association between gender equality and mortality based on a population of all Swedish men and women who had their first child together in 1988-89 (N=118 278 couples). Gender equality was measured by the parents´ division of income and occupational position (public indicators), and parental leave and temporary childcare (domestic indicators) during 1988-91 into categories of traditionally unequal, equal, and untraditionally unequal couples. The outcome was all-cause mortality during 1992-2008. It was found that fathers (compared to being equal) run a lower/higher risk when traditional and untraditional, respectively, regarding income, a higher/lower risk when traditional and untraditional, respectively, regarding occupational position, and a higher risk when traditional regarding temporary childcare. Further, mothers (compared to being equal) run an increased risk of mortality when untraditional regarding parental leave, and possibly, decreased risks when traditional in occupational position and in temporary childcare. The study mostly harmonises with an earlier study on gender equality and mortality among Swedish parents of 1978. Two important exceptions are: the more recent fathers benefit from gender equality in occupational position; the more mothers are not harmed from gender equality in income. Only future research can confirm or reject the overall hypothesis of decreased gender inequality in longevity from increased gender equality in parenthood.