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1 Loneliness after divorce A cohort comparison among 60-78- year old Dutch people Theo van Tilburg Sociology, VU University Amsterdam Marja Aartsen Sociology,

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Presentation on theme: "1 Loneliness after divorce A cohort comparison among 60-78- year old Dutch people Theo van Tilburg Sociology, VU University Amsterdam Marja Aartsen Sociology,"— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Loneliness after divorce A cohort comparison among 60-78- year old Dutch people Theo van Tilburg Sociology, VU University Amsterdam Marja Aartsen Sociology, VU University Amsterdam Suzan van der Pas EMGO+, VUmc, Amsterdam Theo.van.Tilburg@vu.nl

2 2 Abstract Background. Divorce increases the chance of loneliness. With divorce increasingly becoming a normal life event, societal changes are now challenging this idea as regards current cohorts. Method. Data are from 146 and 165 divorcees, including those who later remarry, and 1226 and 712 people married for the first time, aged 60-78, in the Netherlands interviewed in 1992 and 2009. Results. Divorcees are less socially lonely in 2009 than in 1992 and no longer differ from respondents married for the first time. Emotional loneliness similarly decreases among respondents without a supportive partner, but not among those in a supportive partnership. Loneliness among respondents married for the first time is equally low in 1992 and 2009. Conclusion. There is no evidence that marriage has become less beneficial or partnership less attractive. The results do however suggest that the social position of divorcees has improved, reflecting increased attractiveness of individualized living arrangements.

3 3 Weakening benefits of marriage Advantage of marriage for well-being has been well documented Mixed empirical evidence for weakening thesis –Veenhoven (1983) – happiness, suicide – no support –Haring-Hidore et al. (1985) – well-being – support –Glenn and Weaver (1988) – happiness – support –Follow-up by Adams (1999) – no support –Amato and Keith (1991) – meta-analysis – support –Mastekaasa (1993) – suicide – mixed results Tentative conclusion: cracks visible in institution marriage However, marriage continues to provide people with benefits What about alternatives? In particular cohabitation with supportive partner equals marriage (e.g. Musick & Bumpass, 2012)

4 4 Weakening benefits of marriage – Current study Focus on divorce: detrimental effects for well-being Gaps in existing research - limited in analytic approach (computed correlation between year of data collection and outcome) - old (no studies covering 1990s and 2000s) Purpose current study - comparison divorced – married people (60-78 yrs old) - direct test (cohort analysis 1992-2009)

5 5 Marital status: Two major changes People have chosen for alternatives to marriage Alternatives has become socially approved Release of stigma associated with being divorced Marriage has lost its integrating, protective and social function Socio-economic position of non-married people has improved Persons relationships disembedded from the context of marriage

6 6 Hypotheses Traditional social integration thesis Focus on social status associated with marriage People not in marriage occupy an incompatible status Poor social integration harms well-being H1: legal form of marital status has lost in importance: disadvantage of being divorced compared to marriage in loneliness intensity has diminished Traditional protection thesis Focus on resources offered within partnership Marriage/partnership fulfills basic human needs H2: not having supportive partnership decreasingly lead to intense feelings of loneliness

7 7 Design of LASA LASA: Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, since 1991 N = 3805 (1992), 1002 (2002), >1000 (2012) Focus on: - Social - Cognitive - Emotional, and - Physical functioning Random sample 55+, stratified according to sex and birth year The Netherlands, eleven municipalities, three regions Cooperation rate - initial observations 62% - follow-up observations 89% - 97% Multiple point prospective panel design Amsterdam Zwolle Oss Germany North Sea Belgium Huisman, M., Poppelaars, J., Van der Horst, M., Beekman, A.T.F., Brug, J., Van Tilburg, T.G., & Deeg, D.J.H. (2011). Cohort profile: The Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA). Journal of Epidemiology, 40, 868-876.

8 8 Cohorts and longitudinal observations in LASA 60-78 yrs old

9 9 Sample Size Year data collection19922009 Birth years1914-19301931-1947 NN Divorced9697 Remarried after divorce5068 First marriage1226712

10 10 Measurement instruments Loneliness (Scale De Jong Gierveld) Emotional loneliness, 6 items, range 0-6 I experience a general sense of emptiness Social loneliness, 5 items (reversed coding), range 0-5 I can call on my friends whenever I need them Support Emotional: How often did it occur in the last year that you told your partner/spouse about your personal experiences and feelings? Instrumental: … your partner/spouse helped you with daily chores in and around the house, such as prepare meals, clean the house, transportation, small repairs, fill in forms? Spouse provided emotional and instrumental support often (versus never, seldom, sometimes for one or both support types)

11 11 Procedure Legal form: Comparison of - people in first marriage - divorced people, and - people remarried after divorce Reported in interview; corrected from data population register Comparison of people - with supportive partnership - without such relationship Reported in interview Logistic ordinal regression of emotional and social loneliness Pooled sample; interaction effects with survey year Controlled for gender, age, years in current marital status, other supportive relationship, personal network size, educational level, religious affiliation, ADL capacity, functional limitations, self- perceived health

12 12 Results – Composition of marital status categories Gender, age, years in current marital status, other supportive relationship, religious affiliation, ADL capacity, functional limitations: No changes 1992-2009 For all categories increase in: Personal network size (e.g. divorced: from M = 10.8 to 14.9) Educational level (e.g. divorced: from M = 9.5 to 10.6 yrs) Further, increased subjective health among divorced

13 13 Table 1. Respondent Characteristics by Marital Status Currently divorced Divorced, remarried Married for the first time 199220091992200919922009 N969750681226712 Female0.580.620.320.440.430.47 Age69.1167.30**69.6366.89**69.4268.51*** Years in marital status18.1019.7423.9320.6242.5343.40** Partnership0.300.371.00 Supportive partnership0.100.200.600.660.560.60 Other supp. relationship0.290.220.140.130.140.13 Network size10.8414.86***11.3615.13*14.1417.22*** Educational level9.4810.59*9.6611.12*8.7310.36*** Religious affiliation0.400.380.180.340.630.60 ADL capacity18.8818.7718.9618.3719.2719.19 Functional limitations1.561.551.501.571.401.41 Self-perceived health3.413.69*3.683.573.733.75 * p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; *** p < 0.001

14 14 Table 2. Loneliness Scores by Marital Status Currently divorced Divorced, remarried Married for the first time 199220091992200919922009 %%% Emotional loneliness * Score 0455958716974 Score 1141312101412 Score 21048376 Score 331242216108 Social loneliness*** Score 0405834545758 Score 1211612161922 Score 214822161110 Score 326183213 10 * p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; *** p < 0.001 Note. Test of significance is assessed by ordinal logistic regression of emotional and social loneliness and concerns differences between the survey years within categories of marital status.

15 15 Results - Regression of Loneliness Hypothesis 1: support found for social loneliness Hypothesis 2: support found for emotional loneliness Presentation of estimated probabilities

16 16 Table 3. Ordinal Logistic Regression of Emotional and Social Loneliness (OR) EmotionalSocial Survey year0.78**0.81* Female1.29*0.76** Age1.011.02* Divorced1.67***1.47** Remarried0.771.43 Divorced * Survey Year0.820.53** Remarried * Survey Year0.770.72 Supportive partnership0.65***0.63*** Supportive partnership * Survey year1.49*1.13 Years in current marital status0.990.98* Other supportive relationship1.120.59*** Network size0.96***0.94*** Educational level1.00 Religious affiliation0.980.81* ADL capacity0.97 Functional limitations1.36***1.18* Self-perceived health0.82**0.87*

17 17 Social Loneliness Includes: - without partner - with non-supportive partner - with supportive partner Includes: - with non-supportive spouse - with supportive spouse

18 18 Social Loneliness -18% -2% Includes: - without partner - with non-supportive partner - with supportive partner Includes: - with non-supportive spouse - with supportive spouse

19 19 Emotional Loneliness

20 20 Emotional Loneliness -7%

21 21 Discussion No weakening benefits of marriage Fits Cherlin (2004): practical importance of marriage has declined, its symbolic significance has remained high (see also Lauer) No sign of diminishing attractiveness of partnership (but: Increasing personal networks) Disadvantage of divorce & being without supportive partner disappeared Contradicts - results of old studies on detrimental effects of divorce - ideas of individualizing society /w more people lonely Reflection of processes in society - new cohorts entering late life (e.g. Baby Boomers) - more risks, but equipped to cope with uncertainties and to navigate in complex situations

22 22 Thank you ! Contact: Theo.van.Tilburg@vu.nl Google search: theo van tilburg


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