Quality of marriages in later life and emotional and social loneliness.

ABSTRACT. Objectives. We examine the extent of emotional and social loneliness among older people and how the evaluation of the functioning and quality of marriages plays a role. Methods. Data on 755 respondents aged 64–92 are taken from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (Wave 2001–2002). Hierarchical negative binomial regression analysis is used. Results. Between 1 in 4 and 5 older adults who are married exhibit moderate or strong emotional or social loneliness. Stronger emotional and social loneliness is observed in adults whose spouse has health problems, who do not often receive emotional support from the spouse, who have nonfrequent conversations or are in disagreement, or who evaluate their current sex life as not (very) pleasant or not applicable. Emotional loneliness is stronger among women in second marriages, whereas marked social loneliness is especially characteristic of older men with disabled spouses. Moreover, smaller social networks and less contact with children also increase emotional and social loneliness in later life. Discussion. Differentiating marital quality and gender provides greater insight into emotional and social loneliness in married older people.