Older women in Korea have suffered from marginalization in the labor market caused by gender division of paid and unpaid labor; as a result, they are often not entitled to public pension, which is related to employment histories. Therefore, after the death of a spouse, older widows are likely to face poverty and discrimination due to difficulties regarding economic and social independence. In particular, when widows face a social crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, their isolation and economic difficulties become more severe, and they are even cut off from the social networks, making it more difficult for them to overcome their sense of loss.
Methods: Data and samples: This study used data from the 2018 Korean Longitudinal Survey of Women & Families (KLoWF) released by the Korean Women's Development Institute. This survey is designed to reflect the overall lives of Korean women, including family and social life. Thus, it is applicable to an analysis of the multidimensional social exclusion patterns of older widows. A total of 502 older widows (aged 65+) were analyzed.
Measures: This study used Latent Class Analysis (LCA) in Mplus. The social exclusion measures in this study consist of nine domains: health, income, financial circumstances, housing, service access, public pension, social participation, work status, and leisure satisfaction. First, LCA was used to classify similar social exclusion patterns among older widows. Second, the differences between the classified classes were identified. Finally, the relationship between social exclusion classes and depression was analyzed.
Results: Three latent classes of social exclusion were selected using the LCA fit indices. According to the estimation item probability profiles, class 1 was labeled the income and job exclusion class and Class 2 was labeled the low exclusion class. None of the indexes showed conditional probability values exceeding 0.6 for these two classes, and the probability of exclusion was relatively low compared to the other classes. Class 3 was labeled the multiple exclusion class, and showed a comparatively high probability of multidimensional exclusion. Examining depression by class revealed that there was no significant difference between the income and job exclusion class and the low exclusion class, whereas the multiple exclusion class experienced significantly more severe depression.
Conclusions and Implications: This study showed that there was no non-exclusion class among older widows in Korea. Older adults, who are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion, may become even more vulnerable when they are women and when they have lost a spouse. This study highlighted the importance of ameliorating social exclusion through improved social policies to improving the quality of life of older widows.