The social context of disablement among older adults: Does marital quality matter for loneliness?

David F. Warner, Jessica Kelley-Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Prior research has not adequately considered that disablement occurs within a web of relationships that provides socioemotional resources to and/or places demands on older adults. Drawing on the stress process and life course perspectives, we considered the social context of disablement by examining the influence of marital quality on the association between disability and loneliness among married older adults. Using data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, we found (1) functional limitations were associated with higher levels of loneliness; (2) neither positive nor negative marital quality mediated this association, contrary to the stress-deterioration hypothesis; and (3) positive (but not negative) marital quality moderated this association, consistent with the stress-buffering hypothesis. These associations were similar for women and men. Our findings indicate the importance of the social context of disablement, as interpersonal resources offer protection from the deleterious socioemotional consequences of disability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-66
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Health and Social Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • aging
  • disability
  • gender
  • life course
  • marital quality
  • marriage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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