Social Change, Social Institutions, and Cohorts:Contextualizing Men’s Health in Later Life


The profiles of men’s health in later life have changed drastically throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries. Research has long linked men’s health and well-being to their participation in, and access to, key social institutions such as marriage, education, and work. Yet, these social institutions have undergone significant change in the same time period. We present a framework for considering simultaneously how older men’s health profiles are changing and how social institutions that influence their health are also “in motion.” We provide three lenses for understanding the role of social institutions in shaping men’s health over time: (1) the gendered life course and its intersection with aging; (2) social changes in the institutionalized life course across cohorts; and (3) cumulative dis/advantage processes within cohorts. The synthesis of these frameworks allows us to capture the gendered construction of men’s lives and life course, movement through its gendered social institutions, and the impact of social change in the structure, meaning, and access to those institutions for men. It also helps explain seemingly contradictory developments in men’s health, such as both the gains in overall life expectancy, but rising suicide rates.

Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics
Jiao Yu
Jiao Yu
Postdoctoral Associate

Aging and Life Course, Health Disparities, Machining Learning, Quantitative Methods