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Longitudinal Study: HILDA
Title: Social Isolation, Social Support, and Loneliness Profiles Before and After Spousal Death and the Buffering Role of Financial Resources
Authors: Freak-Poli, Rosanne
Kung, Claryn S J
Ryan, Joanne
Shields, Michael A 
Publication Date: May-2022
Pages: 956–971
Journal: The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences
Keywords: Financial resources
Social isolation
Social support
Abstract: We provide new evidence on the profiles of social isolation, social support, and loneliness before and after spousal death for older widows. We also examine the moderating effects of gender and financial resources on changes in social health before and after widowhood. We use 19 waves of data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, including 749 widowed individuals and a comparison group of around 8,000 married individuals. We apply coarsened exact matching weights and control for age and time trends. Local polynomial smoothed plots show the profiles of social health from 3 years pre- to 3 years postspousal death. All analyses were stratified by gender. Spousal death was strongly associated with increased loneliness for women and men, but also an increase in interactions with friends and family not living with the bereaved. For men, financial resources (both income and asset wealth) provided some protection against loneliness. Spousal death was not associated with changes in social support or participation in community activities. We demonstrate that loneliness is a greater challenge of widowhood than social isolation or a lack of social support. Our findings suggest that interventions focusing only on increasing social interactions are unlikely to alleviate loneliness following spousal death. Moreover, policies that reduce the cost of formal social participation may have limited effectiveness in tackling loneliness, particularly for women. Alternative strategies, such as helping the bereaved form a new sense of identity and screening for loneliness around widowhood by health care workers, could be beneficial.
DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbac039
Research collection: Journal Articles
Appears in Collections:Journal Articles

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