Using data from the 1992 NESTOR-survey 'Living arrangements and social networks of older adults' (N = 4494), the aim of the present study is to identify specific categories of older adults who are most vulnerable to loneliness. By looking at different types of partner relationships (first, second, and third marriages; consensual unions; partners who are not household members) and at partner histories (never married, ever divorced, ever widowed, remarried), this study elaborates on previous research which has tended to look only at the presence versus the absence of partner relationships. Findings indicate that different types of partner relationships provide differential protection against loneliness. There appears to be a 'shadow of the past' of a previous divorce or widowhood in second and third partnerships, which accounts for generally higher levels of loneliness. Single men tend to be more lonely than single women. Moreover, there are no differences in loneliness between men who have always been single and those previously married. Among single women, differences in partner history are relevant: never married single women tend to be least vulnerable to loneliness. The differences in loneliness between older adults with different types of partner relationships and partner histories are only partially attributable to network and social participation differences. The latter independently contribute to the explanation of loneliness. The role of non-social determinants (health and socioeconomic position) is also examined. The results underscore the socially isolating effects of sensory impairments. Older adults with functional limitations, and those with visual or auditory problems tend to be more lonely, findings which are only partially attributable to differences in the number and quality of social relationships. Socioeconomic circumstances primarily have an indirect influence on loneliness. Those with higher levels of educational attainment and higher incomes tend to have more extensive social networks and are therefore less prone to loneliness.
|Translated title of the contribution||Loneliness differentials among older adults: The importance of type of partner, partner history, health, socioeconomic position, and social relationships|
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Tijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie|
|Publication status||Published - 1999|