The effect of widowhood on loneliness among Chinese older adults: an empirical study from the perspective of family support

ZHAO Xiaohang1 LI Jianxin2

(1.Department of Sociology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China 999077)
(2.Department of Sociology, Peking University, Beijing, China 100871)

【Abstract】Using data from five periods of the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) from 2002 to 2014, this study examines the effect of later-life widowhood on loneliness and investigates family support as the moderator between bereavement and loneliness. We employed individual fixed-effects model to sweep out time-constant unobserved confounders and thereby to attenuate possible omitted-variable bias in regression models. Our results first indicate that for both male and female older adults, widowhood significantly contributes to the increasing feelings of loneliness. Moreover, such effects are especially obvious among the younger elders. However, loneliness as a result of bereavement diminishes over time. Second, remarriage effectively lowers the level of loneliness of widowed seniors. After controlling for other factors, the remarried older adults are significantly less lonely than both the recently widowed and the long-term widowed. There is no substantial difference in the level of loneliness between the remarried and the first-married older adults. Third, Living together with children or grandchildren can reduce widowed seniors’ loneliness as well. For the long-term widowed elders, living with children and grandchildren together is the most effective living arrangement which helps to decrease their loneliness. Finally, providing financial support to children generates greater loneliness to recently widowed females, while receiving monetary support from children is ineffective in alleviating widowed elders’ loneliness. In sum, our findings reveal that rebuilding family ties and improving family support are crucial in protecting widowed seniors from psychological defects. More specifically, remarriage after widowhood, Living together with children, and children’s financial independence may ameliorate widowed seniors’ loneliness.

【Keywords】 widowhood; loneliness; family support; older adults;


【Funds】 National Natural Science Foundation of China (71490732)

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(Translated by LI Na)


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This Article


CN: 22-1017/C

Vol 41, No. 06, Pages 30-43

November 2019


Article Outline


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Literature review and research hypotheses
  • 3 Data, variables and methods
  • 4 Empirical results
  • 5 Conclusion and discussion
  • Footnote