‘The care circle consists of me.’ Loneliness and social isolation for older male spousal care-givers. A qualitative study

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Whilst loneliness and social isolation amongst older care-givers are becoming increasingly recognised, little is known about how these concepts impact on specific sub-groups of care-givers, such as older males. In the current study, we aimed to gain a better understanding
of the experiences of loneliness and social isolation amongst older spousal male care-givers. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 24 participants, caring for a spouse/partner with a long-term chronic condition. After thematic analysis of the data, three themes were identified: dwindling social interactions, loneliness in the spousal
relationship, and living with loneliness and social isolation. Study findings suggest that opportunities for social interactions gradually ‘dwindled’ due to a reluctance by older male care-givers to leave their spouse/partner at home alone, to accept offers of help or respite, or to attend social events without their spouse/partner. Consequently, social isolation increased. Feelings of physical and emotional loneliness were evident, and the loss
of spousal companionship (such as loss of conversation and shared interests) increased loneliness. Individualised coping strategies were adopted including focusing on moments of positivity, talking to others and using prescribed medication. Findings provide insight
into the experience of loneliness and social isolation for many older male spousal caregivers. This may facilitate a better understanding of older male care-givers’ support needs in addressing loneliness and social isolation, and should help to inform the development of targeted support services for this population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalAgeing and Society
Early online date8 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished online - 8 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • care-giver
  • loneliness
  • social isolation
  • male
  • masculinity
  • spousal
  • support


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