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Do personal conditions and circumstances surrounding partner loss explain loneliness in newly bereaved older adults?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 1999

BERNA VAN BAARSEN
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology and Social Gerontology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands
JOHANNES H. SMIT
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology and Social Gerontology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands
TOM A. B. SNIJDERS
Affiliation:
Department of Statistics, Measurement Theory and Information Technology, University of Groningen
KEES P. M. KNIPSCHEER
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology and Social Gerontology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract

This longitudinal study aims to explain loneliness in newly bereaved older adults, taking into account personal and circumstantial conditions surrounding the partner's death. A distinction is made between emotional and social loneliness. Data were gathered both before and after partner loss. Results were interpreted within the framework of the Theory of Mental Incongruity. The findings reveal that being unable to anticipate the partner's death is related to higher levels of emotional loneliness. Standards of instrumental support, measured indirectly by poor physical condition, lead to stronger emotional as well as social loneliness. Standards measured directly by importance attached to support or contacts result in higher emotional loneliness but, unexpectedly, in lower social loneliness. Furthermore, difficulties with establishing personal contacts, caused, for instance, by social anxiety, add to loneliness. It is concluded that circumstances related to the partner's illness may contribute to emotional loneliness after bereavement. Moreover, the results highlight the importance of taking coping attitudes into consideration for a better understanding of how newly bereaved older adults adapt to the loss of a partner.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1999 Cambridge University Press

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