Loneliness after divorce: A cohort comparison among Dutch older adults

T.G. van Tilburg, M.J. Aartsen, S. van der Pas

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Divorce increases the risk of loneliness. With divorce increasingly becoming a normal life event, societal changes are now challenging this idea as regards to current cohorts. We hypothesize that the relative strong feelings of loneliness among divorcees, compared with married people, has diminished over time. Using 1992, 2002, and 2012 data sets of 54-65-year-old people, we examine the impact of divorce on loneliness over 20 years. We compare those who are divorced or remarried to people married for the first time, and differentiate the supportiveness of the partnership. The results show that for both emotional and social loneliness, divorcees were lonelier than respondents in their first marriage; remarried divorces were socially lonelier than respondents in their first marriage. Respondents with a supportive partnership were less emotionally and socially lonely than respondents without a partnership or with a less supportive partnership. The main finding is that, compared with 1992, the divorcees are less socially lonely in 2002, with a smaller and non-significant further decrease in loneliness in 2012. This suggests that the social position of divorcees has been improved over the past two decades.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-252
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number3
Early online date1 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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