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Friendship - How Friends Influence The Lives Of Older Adults

age aging social friendships life social studies

Studies have suggested that friendships contribute to physical health and longevity, possibly because friendship and happiness are associated with each other. Since the 1960s when Majorie Lowenthal and Clayton Haven demonstrated that having a confidante was important to older adult mental health, or certainly since the 1970s when Reed Larson summarized the clear connection between friendship activity and psychological well-being, gerontologists have assumed that friendship has positive consequences for older adults. The connection between friendship activity and psychological well-being is one of the most frequently reported findings in the social gerontology literature.

Nonetheless, it is not clear whether friendship leads to happiness or happiness leads to friendship, because researchers have not studied multiple groups born at different times repeatedly as they age. It is only recently that researchers have begun to compare the friendship patterns among older adults of various ages and to examine friendship patterns over time (see Field, for a discussion of some of these studies). It is also not clear how consistently friendship activity and happiness are related to each other in different cultures, because cross-cultural research on older adult friendship has been and is still rare. Until longitudinal studies of multiple cohorts in different contexts have been conducted, the consequences of friendship will be implicit rather than explicit.

REBECCA G. ADAMS

See also KIN; SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS; SOCIAL SUPPORT.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ADAMS, R. G., and ALLAN, G., eds. Placing Friendship In Context. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

ADAMS, R. G., BLIESZNER, R.; and DE VRIES, B. "Definitions of Friendship in the Third Age: Age, Gender, and Study Location Effects." Journal of Aging Studies 14, no. 1 (2000): 117–133.

ALLAN, G. "Friendship, Sociology and Social Structure." Journal of Personal Relationships 15, no. 5 (1998): 685–702.

BLIESZNER, R., and ADAMS, R. G. Adult Friendship. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1992.

DYKSTRA, P. A. Next of (Non)kin. Amsterdam: Swets and Zeitlinger, 1990.

FIELD, D. "A Cross Cultural Perspective on Continuity and Change in Social Relations in Old Age: An Introduction to a Special Issue." The International Journal of Aging and Human Development 48, no. 4 (1999): 257–351.

FISCHER, C. S., and OLIKER, S. J. "A Research Note on Friendship, Gender, and the Life Cycle." Social Forces 62 (1983): 124–133.

JERROME, D., and WENGER, G. C. "Stability and Change in Late Life Friendships." Aging and Society 19, no. 6 (1999): 661–676.

JOHNSON, C. L., and TROLL, L. E. "Constraints and Facilitators to Friendships in Late Life." The Gerontologists 34 (1994): 79–87.

LARSON, R. "Thirty Years of Research in the Subjective Well-Being of Older Americans." Journal of Gerontology 33 (1978): 109–125.

LITWAK, E. Helping the Elderly. New York: Guilford, 1985.

LOWENTHAL, M., and HAVEN, C. "Interaction and Adaptation: Intimacy as a Critical Variable." American Sociological Review 33 (1968): 20–30.

ROBERTO, K., and SCOTT, J. P. "Friendships of Older Men and Women: Exchange Patterns and Satisfaction." Psychology and Aging 1 (1986): 103–109

WEISS, L., and LOWENTHAL, M. F. "Life-Course Perspectives on Friendship." In Four Stages of Life. Edited by M. E. Lowenthal, M. Thurner, D. Chiriboga, and others. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1975. Pages 48–61.

WRIGHT, P. "Men's Friendships, Women' Friendships, and the Alleged Inferiority of the Latter." Sex Roles 8 (1978): 1–20.

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