Previous research has shown that living arrangements (independent households of those living alone or as a couple, versus coresident households encompassing adult children) are important determinants of older adults’ loneliness. However, little is known about intergenerational support exchanges in these living arrangements and their associations with loneliness.
Our aim is to contribute to the knowledge on associations between living arrangements and loneliness, by taking into account and differentiating intergenerational support types.
Using data from the Generations and Gender Surveys of three countries in Eastern Europe and two countries in Western Europe, Latent Class Analyses was applied to develop intergenerational support types for (a) co-residing respondents in Eastern Europe, (b) respondents in independent households in Eastern Europe, and (c) respondents in independent households in Western Europe, respectively. Six types resulted, distinguishing patterns of upward support, downward support and get-togethers. Subsequently, we used linear regression analyses to examine differences in loneliness by region, living arrangements and intergenerational support type.
Findings show higher levels of loneliness in Eastern than in Western Europe. Older adults living alone are most lonely, older adults living with a partner are least lonely. Coresidence provides protection, but not to the same degree as a partner. In both co-resident and independent households there is a greater likelihood of being involved in support given to adult children than in support received from adult children. In both East and West European countries, older adults who are primarily on the receiving side are most lonely.
A better explanation of older adult loneliness is obtained if the direction of supportive exchanges with adult children is considered than if only living arrangements are considered.