Marital Status Differences in Loneliness Among Older Americans During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hui Liu, Molly Copeland, Gerald Nowak, William J. Chopik, Jeewon Oh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Guided by the social integration perspective, we conducted one of the first population-based studies on marital status differences in loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic among older Americans. Analysis of data from the 2020 National Health and Aging Trends Study COVID-19 supplement (n = 2861) suggested that, compared to their married counterparts, divorced and widowed older adults reported higher levels of loneliness during the pandemic, and divorced older adults also felt lonely more often when compared to before the pandemic. These marital status differences in pandemic loneliness cannot be explained by changes in social participation (e.g., working for pay, volunteering, attending religious services, or attending clubs, classes, or other organized activities) or changes in contact frequency with family and friends (via phone calls, emails/texts/social media messages, video calls, or in-person visits). No gender difference was found in the association between marital status and loneliness during the pandemic. These results, coupled with the growth of the unmarried older population, highlight that policymakers, health care providers, and researchers should think creatively about ways to reduce the loneliness gap between married and unmarried groups to promote healthy aging for all older adults, particularly in the face of emerging pandemics that may complicate strategies to improve population health in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number74
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Volume42
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Contact frequency
  • Gender
  • Loneliness
  • Marital status
  • Social participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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