Widows and widowers are, on the whole, lonelier than married people, but their loneliness does not necessarily come from living alone. Loneliness is more of a problem for younger than for older widows and for working-class than for middle-class widows (Atchley, 1975). Loneliness also tends to be higher for widows residing in metropolitan areas than for those in medium-sized cities and small towns (Atchley, 1975; Kunkel, 1979; Lopata, 1973). The relationship of loneliness to age, social class, and location differences in loneliness depends on the number of social contacts the person has. Older widows tend to have more friends than younger widows, and middle-class widows have more time and a greater tendency than working-class widows to establish new friendships. A number of factors could account for the greater loneliness of widows who live in metropolitan areas, but the principal one is that the psychological climate, traveling distances, and safety conditions in large metropolitan areas are less favorable for social interactions than those of small- and medium-sized towns.
Loneliness is, of course, not limited to widows; widowers also get lonely. The results of certain studies seem to indicate that widows are somewhat lonelier than widowers, but this may be due to the fact that more widows than widowers live alone (Murphy & Florio, 1978; Troll, 1982). There is no consistent support for the notion than widowers are less able than widowers to live alone or that they are more likely to become lonely (Atchley, 1994). However, it is true that widows are more likely than widowers to maintain close relationships with family members and to have at least one confidant (Lopata, 1975). Widows are also more likely than widowers to maintain contact with their families (Powers, Keith, & Goudy, 19075). Finally, both widows and widowers may cope with feelings of loneliness by keeping pets that they can take care of, talk to, and love.
Another problem experienced by widows is financial hardship. Income from insurance policies, estate settlements, profit-sharing trusts, and the like result in some fortunate widows being even better off financially than when their husbands were alive. The majority of widows, however, must manage on small savings, a modest insurance or death benefit, and Social Security. And for most working-class women, widowhood pushes them financially over the line into poverty. Although widows of all ages have problems with money and its management, those problems are more acute for younger than for older widows (Wyly & Hulicka, 1975).
Not only does the decreased income of widows lead to a reduction in the pursuit of interests and activities that cost money, but the individual's self-concept may also be affected. Furthermore, a widow who depended on her husband to keep their possessions in good condition may feel inadequate, insecure, and hopeless when forced to do everything by herself. On the other hand, the need to rely on one's own resources rather than depending totally on someone else can be a growth experience for both widows and widowers. In general, it has been found that the great majority of men and women are able to cope with widowhood. Their morale and self-confidence tend to be high and their attitudes quite positive (Kunkel, 1979).
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