Loneliness and Depression in Middle and Old Age: Are the Childless More Vulnerable?
Demography, Population, and Ecology
Family, Life Course, and Society
Social and Behavioral Sciences
This study examines the relative circumstances of community-dwelling childless and parents in middle and old age (50-84 years old), using data from the 1988 National Survey of Families and Households, in order to update and test earlier findings of negative consequences related to childlessness in later life. Results indicate that net of other effects, both loneliness and depression are significantly related to childlessness for women but not men. Childless women are 46% more likely to report high depression compared to mothers. Among both men and women, being formerly married is related to greater loneliness and depression. These results demonstrate the greater salience of childlessness for women compared to men. The findings are discussed in the context of the changing norms regarding marriage, divorce, childlessness, and gender roles experienced by the newly emerging cohorts of the middle-aged and elderly.