Loneliness trajectories and correlates of social connections among older adult married couples.

Ashley E. Ermer, Dikla Segel-Karpas, Jacquelyn J. Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


How loneliness manifests in older adult married couples is necessary to consider. Marriage partners may become more or less lonely based on shared circumstances with one another (i.e., the shared environment hypothesis). Moreover, individuals may pair off with a marriage partner who shares similar levels of loneliness (i.e., the homophily hypothesis; Cacioppo, Fowler, & Christakis, 2009), which can potentially lead to higher or lower levels of loneliness. Therefore, examining couples dyadically is beneficial in order to understand how loneliness operates over time. Three waves of the Health and Retirement Study were used and participants included 1,389 older adult couples. The current study uses growth-mixture modeling to examine older adult couples’ joint loneliness trajectories. Multinomial logistic regressions were also used to examine social and demographic correlates of these trajectories. Three classes emerged, including classes characterized by high loneliness (N = 69), low loneliness (N = 998), and moderate loneliness (N = 322). Classes were distinguished at the first wave by husbands’ and wives’ marital support, husbands’ marital strain, husbands’ age, husbands’ friendship strain, and wives’ frequency of seeing friends. Overall, husbands’ and wives’ had relatively similar levels of loneliness over time and those who were in the low loneliness class tended to have more positive factors related to social connections. The present study provides insight into how loneliness functions over time among older adult couples, and has implications for practitioners who work with older adult couples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1014-1024
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2020


  • loneliness
  • marriage
  • older adults
  • person-centered modeling
  • social connections


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