Loneliness among Disabled Older Adults: The Importance of Marital and Non-Marital Relationships

David F. Warner, Case Western Reserve University
Scott Adams, Case Western Reserve University

Research demonstrating the significance of marital and non-marital relationships for well-being among disabled older adults is lacking. Drawing on the stress process and life course perspectives, we expand our understanding of the social context of disablement by considering how marital quality and non-marital social support affect loneliness among disabled married older adults. Using nationally representative data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), we found that functional impairment predicted higher levels of loneliness; positive marital and non-marital relationships were associated with lower levels of loneliness, and the effect of functional impairment on loneliness was diminished among those with higher levels of both family support and strain. We did not find support from family or friends to offset the negative consequence of being in a low-quality marriage. These results underscore the salience of both marital and non-marital relationships on the association between disability and loneliness in late-life.

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Presented in Session 59: Aging and Well-Being: Social, Economic, and Psychological Dimensions