Older Couple Relationships and Loneliness

J. de Jong Gierveld, M. Broese van Groenou

Research output: Chapter in book/volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

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The couple relationship is a major factor in alleviating loneliness. Midlife and older adults without a couple relationship, especially after widowhood or divorce, are at serious risk of loneliness. Outcomes of empirical research, both dating back to the former century (Lopata, 1980, 1996), as well as based on recent research (Aartsen & Jylhä, 2011; Ben-Zur, 2012; Guiaux, Van Tilburg, & Broese van Groenou, 2007), have shown that widowed and divorced older adults are frequently characterized by high levels of loneliness. Yet, some older adults within a couple relationship also report loneliness. About one in six older married men and women experiences moderate or strong levels of emotional loneliness (De Jong Gierveld, Broese van Groenou, Hoogendoorn, & Smit, 2009). This calls for more attention to the determinants of loneliness, especially those that may operate differently for adults in couple relationships and those without couple relationships in midlife and later life. This chapter assesses the concept and measurement of loneliness, a theoretical model to investigate the interplay of the main determinants of loneliness, several types of couple relationships, and the association between couple relationships and loneliness; the chapter rounds off with suggestions for interventions to alleviate loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCouple relationships in the Middle and Later Years: Their Nature, Complexity and Role in Health and Illness
EditorsJamila Bookwala
Place of PublicationWashington DC
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association
ISBN (Print)978-1-4338-2209-4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • older couples
  • loneliness


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