Gender Differences in Social Contact after Spousal Loss

Jung-Hwa Ha, University of Michigan

Previous research suggests that men are more likely to experience social isolation than women after they lose their spouse. However, few empirical studies have examined the factors that contribute to gender differences in social contact. Using the Changing Lives of Older Couples Study, this paper examines whether the frequency of social contact following widowhood differs by gender, and the extent to which two factors – widowed person’s interest in social contact and the support they received from their friends prior to widowhood – mediate the relationship between gender and social contact. The analyzes find that widowers show significantly lower levels of contact than widows. However, when the two mediating factors are controlled, the effect of gender decreases. The findings suggest that gaps in both the availability of social support and the levels of interest in non-marital social relationships prior to spousal loss create gender differences in social adjustment to widowhood.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Aging, Life Course, Health, Mortality, and Health Care