Aging In Rural Malawi: Living Arrangements, Religion, And Migration
Sub-Saharan African is experiencing major sociodemographic trends that include population aging, the proliferation of both Christianity and Islam, and the contribution of migration to the dynamics that exist between urban and rural areas. The need to better understand the health of older adults in a setting largely lacking the formal means to support them is essential. The purpose of this research is to examine various factors related to the health of older women and men in rural Malawi, using quantitative data from the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health (MLSFH). Analysis begins in the residential setting but extends to include social and religious spaces beyond the family, and how some of these factors influence the likelihood of migration for older respondents. The primary measures of health are the mental and physical health scores from the Short-Form 12 (SF-12). Overall, the findings of the three studies in this paper show that: (1) co-residence with offspring has a positive relationship with health for older women, while older men who live in a larger household or with a greater number of females have better health; (2) older adults affiliated with most Christian denominations are less healthy compared to Muslims; (3) participation in religious activities may be particularly important for the health of older women, especially at lower levels of wealth; and (4) the likelihood of migration for older women increases with age and with HIV-positive status, while for older men the likelihood of migration decreases with age but increases with physical health. Overall, these findings indicate that certain factors within and beyond the residential setting have an important relationship with health, and that these factors can serve as determinants of migration in older age in rural Malawi.