The association between relationship strain and emotional well-being among older adult couples: the moderating role of social connectedness

Ashley E. Ermer, Christine M. Proulx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: The present study examines the moderating role of social connectedness (i.e. closeness, talk frequency, social network size, and neighborhood social ties) in the association between one’s own and spouse’s relationship strain and emotional well-being (i.e. depressive symptoms, happiness, and loneliness). Method: Married couples (N = 865) were drawn from the second wave of the National Social, Health, and Aging Project. One Actor Partner Interdependence Model (APIM) and one Actor Partner Interdependence Model with Moderation (APIMoM) were conducted. Results: In terms of actor effects, relationship strain was associated with all emotional well-being outcomes. Wives’ and husbands’ greater relationship strain was associated with spouses’ loneliness. Only wives’ greater relationship strain was associated with her husbands’ higher level of depressive symptoms and no partner effects were found for happiness. In six instances, social connectedness factors helped to ameliorate the association between self/spouse relationship strain, depressive symptoms, and happiness. However, wives’ greater neighborhood social ties amplified the association between wives greater relationship strain and husbands’ greater depressive symptoms. We did not find that social connectedness factors moderated the associations between self/spouse relationship strain and loneliness. Conclusion: Even in late life marriages, marital strain is associated with less happiness and greater depressive symptoms and loneliness. Practitioners addressing emotional well-being may need to pay attention to spousal perceptions of relationship strain and social relationships external to the marital relationship when working with heterosexual couples. Efforts throughout the life course should be made to ensure connections with diverse types of social networks. Supplemental data for this article is available online at https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2021.1910786.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAging and Mental Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Marriage
  • Quality of Life/ Wellbeing
  • Social Support

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