Cynical Hostility and Loneliness in Older Adult Married Couples: An Indirect Effect through Friendships

Dikla Segel-Karpas, Ashley Ermer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Cynical hostility is a cognitive schema according to which people cannot be trusted, and it has associations with individuals' loneliness. The present study takes a dyadic approach to examine whether cynical hostility is related to one's own and their spouse's loneliness. We further explore whether friendship factors serve as a mediator between individuals' and spouses' cynical hostility and loneliness. Method: We used 2 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (N = 1,065 couples) and Actor-Partner Interdependence Models (APIMs) with mediation to examine the proposed model. Mediation was tested with the construction of path models and significance levels were reached using bootstrapping. Results: For both husbands and wives, cynical hostility was significantly associated with loneliness. Husband's loneliness was also significantly associated with his wife's cynical hostility, but wife's loneliness was not associated with her husband's cynical hostility. We further found that the association between wife's own cynical hostility and loneliness was mediated by lower levels of contact with, and support from friends. Friendship factors did not serve as mediators for husbands. Discussion: Husbands and wives who have higher levels of cynical hostility may be more vulnerable to loneliness. High levels of cynical hostility in women may be related to deficits in their quantity and quality of friendship, and thus be associated with loneliness. Men who are married to women with a higher level of cynical hostility may experience increased loneliness, but this relationship is not explained by men's friendships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-316
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 18 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


  • Cynical hostility
  • Dyads
  • Friendship
  • Loneliness
  • Marital relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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