Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Social Science Research 41:6 (November 2012), pp. 1529–1545; doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.05.018


Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


Utilizing the stress process and life course perspectives, we investigated the influence of non-spousal social support on the associations between marital quality, physical disability, and loneliness among married older adults. Using data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), we found that the association between physical disability and loneliness was partially accounted for by the fact that physical disability was associated with less supportive nonmarital relationships. While physically-disabled older adults in higher-quality marriages were buffered from loneliness, supportive non-martial relationships did not offset elevated loneliness among those in low-quality marriages. These associations were largely similar for men and women. Thus, although both marital and nonmarital relationships are important for loneliness, when confronted with a stressor such as disablement it is the marital relationship alone that matters.