Partner care, gender equality, and ageing in Spain and Sweden

Main Article Content

Antonio Abellan
Julio Perez
Rogelio Pujol
Gerdt Sundström
Magnus Jegermalm
Bo Malmberg


We used national surveys to study how older persons’ changing household patterns influence the gender balance of caregiving in two countries with distinct household structures and cultures, Spain and Sweden. In both countries, men and women provide care equally often for their partner in couple-only households. This has become the most common household type among older persons in Spain and prevails altogether in Sweden. This challenges the traditional dominance of young or middle-aged women as primary caregivers in Spain. In Sweden, many caregivers are old themselves. We focus attention to partners as caregivers and the consequences of changing household structures for caregiving, which may be on the way to gender equality in both countries, with implications for families and for the public services.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details



AARP. (2014). Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care to Their Spouses. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute.

AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute and National Alliance for Caregiving. Research Report 2015.

Abellán, A. & Esparza, C. (2010). Solidaridad familiar y dependencia entre las personas mayores. In M. I. Álvarez Vélez & F. Montalvo Jääskeläinen (eds.), La familia ante la enfermedad (pp. 203-225). Madrid: Universidad de Comillas.

Allen, S. M. (1994). Gender differences in spousal caregiving and unmet need for care. Journal of Gerontology 49(4): S187-S195. DOI: 10.1093/geronj/49.4.S187

Allen, S. M., Mor, V., Raveis, V. & Houts, P. (1993). Measurement of need for assistance with daily activities: Quantifying the influence of gender roles. Journal of Gerontology 48(4): S204-S211. DOI:”>10.1093/geronj/48.4.S204

Arber, S. & Ginn, J. (1992). Class and caring: A forgotten dimension. Sociology 26(4): 619-634. DOI: 10.1177/0038038592026004005

Arber, S. & Gilbert, N. (1989). Men: The forgotten carers. Sociology 23(1):111-118. DOI: 10.1177/0038038589023001008

Askham, J., Grundy, E., Tinker, A. & Hancock, R. (1992). Caring: The Importance of Third Age Carers. London: Age Concern Institute of Gerontology, Kings College. Research Paper Number 6.

Bildtgård, T. & .O ¨ berg, P. (2015). Förändrade intimitetsformer bland äldre i det senmoderna samhället [Changing forms of intimacy among older persons in late modern society]. Sociologisk forskning 52(1): 5-32.

Board of Health and Welfare. (2004). Framtidens anhörigomsorg. Kommer de anhöriga vilja, kunna, orka ställa upp för de äldre i framtiden? [Family care in the future. Will families be willing and able to take care of elderly family members?]. Stockholm: Socialstyrelsen, Mimeo.

Board of Health andWelfare. (2012). Anhöriga som ger omsorg till närstående. Omfattning och konsekvenser [Informal care: Extent and consequences]. Available on (Accessed: January 1, 2015).

Busch Zetterberg, K. (1996). Det civila samhället i socialstaten: inkomstkällor, privata transfereringar, omsorgsvård [Civil Society in the Welfare State: Sources of Income,Transfers, Caregiving]. Stockholm:CityUniversity Press.

Butrica, B. & Karamcheva, N. (2014). The Impact of Informal Caregiving on Older Adults Labor Supply and Economic Resources. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute. Available on (Accessed: June 5, 2015).

Calasanti, T. (2010). Gender relations and applied research. The Gerontologist 50(6): 720-734. DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnq085

Carers Trust. (2014). Husband, Partner, Dad, Son, Carer? A survey of the experiences and needs of male carers. Available on (Accessed: September 1, 2015).

Corden, A. & Hirst, M. (2011). Partner care at the end-of-life: Identity, language and characteristics. Ageing and Society 31(02): 217-242. DOI: 10.1017/S0144686X10000838

Dahlberg, L., Demack, S. & Bambra, C. (2007). Age and gender of informal carers: A population-based study in the UK. Health & Social Care in the Community 15(5): 439-445. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2007.00702.x Del Bono, E., Sala, E. & Hancock, R. (2009). Older carers in the UK: Are there really gender differences? New analysis of the individual sample of anonymised records from the 2001 UK Census. Health & Social Care in the Community 17(3): 267-273. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2008.00826.x”

European Commission. (2016). Spain. Health Care and Long-Term Care Systems. The Joint Report on Health Care and Long-Term Care Systems & Fiscal Sustainability. Institutional Paper 37, Volume 2, Country Documents. Available on finance/publications/eeip/ip037en.htm (Accessed: December 15, 2015).

Feld, S., Dunkle, R. & Schroepfer, T. (2000). Characteristics of Spousal Pairs: What Promotes The Choice of Spouse as The Only Caregiver? In Paper presented at the year 2000 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. Mimeo.

Fisher, M. (1994). Man-made care: Community care and older male carers. British Journal of Social Work 24(6): 659-680.

Gaymu, J., Festy, P., Poulain, M. & Beets, G. (2008). Future Elderly Living Conditions in Europe. Paris: INED.

Gaunt, D. (1996). Familjeliv i Norden [Family Life in the Nordic Countries]. Stockholm: Norstedts.

Herlofson, K. & Hagestad, G. O. (2011). Challenges in moving from macro to micro. Population and family structures in ageing societies. Demographic Research 25: 337-370. DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2011.25.102

Instituto Nacional de Estadiística. (1999). Encuesta sobre discapacidades, deficiencias y estado de salud, EDDES. Microdatos. [Survey on Disability, Impairment and Health status. Microdata]. Madrid: INE. Available on”

Instituto Nacional de Estadística. (2008). Encuesta de discapacidad, autonomía personal y situaciones de dependencia, EDAD. Microdatos. [Survey on Disability, Personal Autonomy and Dependency. Microdata]. Madrid: INE. Available on

Jegermalm, M., Malmberg, B. & Sundström, G. (2014). Anhöriga äldre angår alla! [Older Family Is Everybodys Concern!]. Kalmar: Nationellt kompetenscentrum anhöriga. Kunskapsöversikt 2014:3.

Kramer, B. J. & Thompson, E. H. (2002). Men as Caregivers: Theory, Research, and Service Implications. New York: Springer.

Matras, J. (1989). Demographic trends, life course, and family cycle - The Canadian example. Canadian Studies in Population 16(1): 1-24.

Matras, J. (1990). Dependency, Obligations, & Entitlements. A New Sociology of Aging, the Life Course, and the Elderly. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Milne, A. & Hatzidimitriadou, E. (2003). Isnt he wonderful? Exploring the contribution and conceptualization of older husbands as carers. Ageing International 28(4): 389-407. DOI: 10.1007/s12126-003-1011-y

Pérez Díaz, J. (2003). Feminización de la vejez y Estado del Bienestar en Espa-a [Feminization of old age and the welfare state in Spain]. Revista Espanola de Investigaciones Sociológicas 104: 91-121. DOI: 10.2307/40184570

Ribeiro, O., Pauli, C. & Nogueria, C. (2007). Real men, real husbands: Caregiving and masculinities in later life. Journal of Aging Studies 21(4): 302-313. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaging.2007.05.005

Solé-Auró, A. & Alca-iz, M. (2015). Are we living longer but less healthy? Trends in mortality and morbidity in Catalonia (Spain), 1994-2011. European Journal of Ageing 12(1): 61-70. DOI: 10.1007/s10433-014-0317-9

Span, P. (2015). More caregivers are no spring chickens themselves. New York Times, The New Old Age, 7 July, 2015, p. D3 of the New York edition. Available on (Accessed: July 8, 2015).

Sundström, G. (2009). Demography of aging in the Nordic countries. In P. Uhlenberg (ed.), International Handbook of Population Aging (pp. 91-111). New York: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-8356-3_5

Sundström, G., Johansson, L. & Hassing, L. (2002). The shifting balance of long-term care in Sweden. The Gerontologist 42(3): 350-355. DOI: 10.1093/geront/42.3.350

Thomeer, M. B., Reczek, C. & Umberson, D. (2015). Gendered emotion work around physical health problems in mid-and later-life marriages. Journal of Aging Studies 32(1): 12-22. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaging.2014.12.001

Tomassini, C., Glaser, K., Wolf, D. A., van Groenou, M. B. & Grundy, E.`(2004). Living arrangements among older people: An overview of trends in Europe and the USA. Population Trends 115: 24-35.

Ulmanen, P. & Szebehely, M. (2015). From the state to the family or to the market? Consequences of reduced residential care in Sweden. International Journal of Social Welfare 24(1): 81-92. DOI: 10.1111/ijsw.12108

Unión Democrática de Pensionistas (UDP). (2014) La mitad de los cuidadores informales, sin vacaciones. Boletín UDP XXVIII(256): 12-13. Available on (Accessed: May 10, 2015).

von Essen, J., Jegermalm, M. & Svedberg, L. (2015). Folk i rörelse: medborgerligt engagemang 1992-2014 [People on the Move - Civic Involvement 1992-2014]. Stockholm: Ersta Sköndal Högskola. Arbetsrapport 85.

Wallroth, V. (2016). Men do care! A gender-aware and masculinity-informed contribution to caregiving scholarship. Linköping: Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, No. 674, 2016. Diss. DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-127381

Young, H., Grundy, E. & Jitlal, M. (2006). Care Providers, Care Receivers. A Longitudinal Perspective. London: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine & Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Draft version.