MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Curl: Often people think of stopping driving as just effecting one person: the person who stops driving. In reality, for married couples driving cessation affects both spouses. Using longitudinal data (1998-2010) from 1,457 married couples participating in the Health and Retirement Study, we found that husbands and wives who are no longer able to drive are less likely to work, and less likely to engage in formal volunteering (for charitable organizations) and informal volunteering (helping friends and neighbors not-for-pay). Having a spouse in the household who is still able to drive does reduce these negative consequences a little, but not entirely. Furthermore, the spouse who continues to drive is also less likely to continue working or volunteering following the driving cessation of their partner, presumably because he/she is providing transportation or social support to the non-driver.
MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Curl: Clinicians, couples, and their families should be alerted to the reality of reduced engagement—for both spouses— when preparing for an older spouse to cease driving. Our findings also point to the need for opportunities for nondrivers to work, socially interact with others, and to volunteer. Not only would these opportunities help the spouse who has ceased driving, they have the potential to help the spouse who continues to drive by alleviating some of the transportation and caregiving burden placed on them by living with a nondriver.
MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Curl: Future research should explore the reasons why driving cessation reduces the odds of employment for the driving spouse. It is possible that providing transportation assistance for their nondriving spouse interferes with work responsibilities. Are spouses ceasing work, so that they can provide care and transportation for the nondriving spouse? Or do they stop working because employment is increasingly difficult and less desirable when their spouse is at home? Future research should also explore the financial impact of loss of employment due to the driving cessation of one or both spouses.
Curl, A. L., Proulx, C. M., Stowe, J. D., & Cooney, T. M. (2015). Productive and social engagement following driving cessation: A couple-based analysis. Research on Aging, 36(3), 297-321. doi:10.1177/0164027514527624
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Angela L. Curl PhD MSW (2015). Significant Repercussions When Spouse Stops Driving