Skip to main content Accessibility help

Loneliness, socio-economic status and quality of life in old age: the moderating role of housing tenure



The study investigated housing tenure as a factor moderating the effects of loneliness and socio-economic status (SES) on quality of life (control and autonomy, pleasure, and self-realisation) over a two-year period for older adults. Data from the 2010 and 2012 waves of the New Zealand Health, Work, and Retirement Study were analysed. Using case-control matching, for each tenant (N = 332) we selected a home-owner (N = 332) of the same age, gender, ethnicity, SES, working status and urban/rural residence. Structural equation modelling was employed to examine the impact of SES, housing tenure and loneliness on quality of life over time. Emotional loneliness exerted a significant negative main effect on control and autonomy and pleasure. Tenure and SES influenced control and autonomy, but not pleasure or self-realisation. Tenure moderated the effect of emotional loneliness on control and autonomy, with the negative effect of emotional loneliness weaker for home-owners compared to renters. Tenure moderated the effect of SES on control and autonomy, with the positive impact of SES stronger for home-owners. Findings suggest that owners capitalise on their material and financial resources more than tenants in terms of their quality of life. In addition, home-ownership can act as a protective factor against the harmful effects of emotional loneliness in old age.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Agnes Szabo, School of Psychology, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Massey University, Manawatuū, 4442, New Zealand E-mail:


Hide All
Andersen, H. S. 2011. Motives for tenure choice during the life cycle: the importance of non-economic factors and other housing preferences. Housing, Theory and Society, 28, 2, 183207.
Andrews, D. and Sánchez, A. C. 2011. The evolution of homeownership rates in selected OECD countries: demographic and public policy influences. OECD Journal: Economic Studies, 1, 1, 137.
Badland, H., Foster, S., Bentley, R., Higgs, C., Roberts, R., Pettit, C. and Giles-Corti, B. 2017. Examining associations between area-level spatial measures of housing with selected health and wellbeing behaviours and outcomes in an urban context. Health and Place, 43, 1724.
Baker, E. H. 2014. Socioeconomic status, definition. In Cockerham, W. C., Dingwall, R. and Quah, S. R. (eds), The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior, and Society. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, West Sussex, UK, 2210–4.
Baker, E., Bentley, R. and Mason, K. 2013. The mental health effects of housing tenure: causal or compositional? Urban Studies, 50, 2, 426–42.
Bierre, S., Howden-Chapman, P., Signal, L. and Cunningham, C. 2007. Institutional challenges in addressing healthy low-cost housing for all: learning from past policy. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 30, 4264.
Bowling, A., Seetai, S., Morris, R. and Ebrahim, S. 2007. Quality of life among older people with poor functioning. The influence of perceived control over life. Age and Ageing, 36, 3, 310–5.
Brimblecombe, N., Dorling, D. and Shaw, M. 1999. Where the poor die in a rich city: the case of Oxford. Health and Place, 5, 4, 287300.
Bucchianeri, G. W. 2011. The American Dream or the American Delusion? Available online at [Accessed 20 February 2017].
Burnholt, V. and Windle, G. 2001. Literature Review for the Strategy of Older People in Wales. The Centre for Social Policy Research and Development, The Institute of Medical and Social Care Research, University of Wales, Bangor, UK.
Cacioppo, J. T. and Hawkley, L. C. 2009. Perceived social isolation and cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 10, 447–54.
Cacioppo, J. T., Hughes, M. E., Waite, L. J., Hawkley, L. C. and Thisted, R. A. 2006. Loneliness as a specific risk factor for depressive symptoms: cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Psychology and Aging, 21, 1, 140–51.
Cairney, J. and Boyle, M. H. 2004. Home ownership, mortgages and psychological distress. Housing Studies, 19, 2, 161–74.
Clinton, M. and Anderson, L. R. 1999. Social and emotional loneliness: gender differences and relationships with self-monitoring and perceived control. Journal of Black Psychology, 25, 1, 6177.
Costa-Font, J. 2008. Housing assets and the socio-economic determinants of health and disability in old age. Health and Place, 14, 3, 478–91.
Courtin, E., Dowd, J. and Avendano, M. 2017. The mental health benefits of acquiring a home in older age: a fixed-effects analysis of older Americans. American Journal of Epidemiology. Published online, 11 August 2017, doi:10.1093/aje/kwx278.
Crane, M. and Warnes, A. M. 2010. Homelessness among older people and service responses. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 20, 4, 354–63.
Dahlberg, L. and McKee, K. J. 2014. Correlates of social and emotional loneliness in older people: evidence from an English community study. Aging and Mental Health, 18, 4, 504–14.
de Jong Gierveld, J. 1998. A review of loneliness: concept and definitions, determinants and consequences. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 8, 1, 7380.
de Jong Gierveld, J., van Groenou, M. B., Hoogendoorn, A. W. and Smit, J. H. 2009. Quality of marriages in later life and emotional and social loneliness. Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 64, 4, 497506.
Dunn, J. R. 2000. Housing and health inequalities: review and prospects for research. Housing Studies, 15, 3, 341–66.
Dupuis, A. and Thorns, D. C. 1998. Home, home ownership and the search for ontological security. The Sociological Review, 46, 1, 2447.
Ellaway, A. and Macintyre, S. 1998. Does housing tenure predict health in the UK because it exposes people to different levels of housing related hazards in the home or its surroundings? Health and Place, 4, 2, 141–50.
Fergusson, D., Hong, B., Horwood, J., Jensen, J. and Travers, P. 2001. Living Standards of Older New Zealanders: A Technical Account. Ministry of Social Policy, Wellington.
Foye, C., Clapham, D. and Gabrieli, T. 2017. Home-ownership as a social norm and positional good: subjective wellbeing evidence from panel data. Urban Studies. Published online, 8 March 2017, doi:10.1177/0042098017695478.
Garin, N., Olaya, B., Miret, M., Ayuso-Mateos, J. L., Power, M., Bucciarelli, P. and Haro, J. M. 2014. Built environment and elderly population health: a comprehensive literature review. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, 10, 103–15.
Gibson, M., Petticrew, M., Bambra, C., Sowden, A. J., Wright, K. E. and Whitehead, M. 2011. Housing and health inequalities: a synthesis of systematic reviews of interventions aimed at different pathways linking housing and health. Health and Place, 17, 1, 175–84.
Gollwitzer, M., Christ, O. and Lemmer, G. 2014. Individual differences make a difference: on the use and the psychometric properties of difference scores in social psychology. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44, 7, 673–82.
Gurney, C. M. 1995. Meaning of Home and Home Ownership: Myths, Histories, and Experiences. University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
Harris, T., Cook, D. G., Victor, C., Rink, E., Mann, A. H., Shah, S., DeWilde, S. and Beighton, C. 2003. Predictors of depressive symptoms in older people – a survey of two general practice populations. Age and Ageing, 32, 5, 510–8.
Howden-Chapman, P. L., Chandola, T., Stafford, M. and Marmot, M. 2011. The effect of housing on the mental health of older people: the impact of lifetime housing history in Whitehall II. BMC Public Health, 11, 1, 682–90.
Hu, L. T. and Bentler, P. M. 1999. Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1, 155.
Iwarsson, S., Wahl, H. W., Nygren, C., Oswald, F., Sixsmith, A., Sixsmith, J., Széman, Z. and Tomsone, S. 2007. Importance of the home environment for healthy aging: conceptual and methodological background of the European ENABLE–AGE Project. The Gerontologist, 47, 1, 7884.
Jensen, J., Spittal, M. and Krishnan, V. 2005. ELSI Short Form. User Manual for a Direct Measure of Living Standards. Centre for Social Research and Evaluation, Te Pokapü Rangahau Arotaki Hapori, Wellington. Available online at [Accessed 25 March 2017].
Jose, P. E. 2013. ModGraph-I: A Program to Compute Cell Means for the Graphical Display of Moderational Analyses: The Internet Version, Version 3.0. Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington. Available online at [Accessed 3 October 2016].
Kavanagh, A. M., Aitken, Z., Baker, E., LaMontagne, A. D., Milner, A. and Bentley, R. 2016. Housing tenure and affordability and mental health following disability acquisition in adulthood. Social Science and Medicine, 151, 22532 .
Kearns, A., Hiscock, R., Ellaway, A. and McIntyre, S. 2000. ‘Beyond four walls’. The psycho-social benefits of home: evidence from West Central Scotland. Housing Studies, 15, 3, 387410.
Kemeny, P. 1981. The Myth of Home-ownership: Private Versus Public Choices in Housing Tenure. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
Lindblad, M. R., Manturuk, K. R. and Quercia, R. G. 2013. Sense of community and informal social control among lower income households: the role of homeownership and collective efficacy in reducing subjective neighborhood crime and disorder. American Journal of Community Psychology, 51, 1/2, 123–39.
Lindblad, M. R. and Quercia, R. G. 2015. Why is homeownership associated with nonfinancial benefits? A path analysis of competing mechanisms. Housing Policy Debate, 25, 2, 263–88.
Luanaigh, C. O. and Lawlor, B. A. 2008. Loneliness and the health of older people. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 23, 12, 1213–21.
Macintyre, S., Ellaway, A., Der, G., Ford, G. and Hunt, K. 1998. Do housing tenure and car access predict health because they are simply markers of income or self esteem? A Scottish study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 52, 10, 657–64.
Macintyre, S., Ellaway, A., Hiscock, R., Kearns, A., Der, G. and McKay, L. 2003. What features of the home and the area might help to explain observed relationships between housing tenure and health? Evidence from the west of Scotland. Health and Place, 9, 3, 207–18.
Macintyre, S., Hiscock, R., Kearns, A. and Ellaway, A. 2001. Housing tenure and car access: further exploration of the nature of their relations with health in a UK setting. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 55, 5, 330–1.
Manturuk, K. R. 2012. Urban homeownership and mental health: mediating effect of perceived sense of control. City & Community, 11, 4, 409–30.
McMunn, A., Nazroo, J. and Breeze, E. 2009. Inequalities in health at older ages: a longitudinal investigation of the onset of illness and survival effects in England. Age and Ageing, 38, 2, 181–7.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment 2014. He Whare Aūhuru He Oranga Tāngata – the Māori Housing Strategy. Available online at [Accessed 25 March 2017].
Ministry of Social Development 2014. Report on the Positive Ageing Strategy. Ministry of Social Development, Wellington. Available online at [Accessed 25 March 2017].
Moore, D. and Schultz, N. R. 1987. Loneliness among the elderly: the role of perceived responsibility and control. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 2, 2, 215–24.
New Zealand Housing Strategy 2004. Building the Future: Towards a New Zealand Housing Strategy. Available online at [Accessed 25 March 2017].
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 1994. Caring for Frail Elderly People: New Directions in Care. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris.
Oswald, F., Jopp, D., Rott, C. and Wahl, H. W. 2011. Is aging in place a resource for or risk to life satisfaction? The Gerontologist, 51, 2, 238–50.
Oswald, F., Wahl, H. W., Schilling, O., Nygren, C., Fänge, A., Sixsmith, A., Széman, Z., Tomsone, S. and Iwarsson, S. 2007. Relationships between housing and healthy aging in very old age. The Gerontologist, 47, 1, 96107.
Packer, C. N., Stewartbrown, S. and Fowle, S. E. 1994. Damp housing and adult health: results from a life-style study in Worcester, England. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 48, 6, 555–9.
Pierse, N., Carter, K., Bierre, S., Law, D. and Howden-Chapman, P. 2016. Examining the role of tenure, household crowding and housing affordability on psychological distress, using longitudinal data. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 70, 10, 961–6.
Pinquart, M. and Sorensen, S. 2001. Influences on loneliness in older adults: a meta-analysis. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 23, 4, 245–66.
Pollack, C. E., Griffin, B. A. and Lynch, J. 2010. Housing affordability and health among homeowners and renters. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39, 6, 515–21.
Rohe, W. M. and Stegman, M. A. 1994. The effects of homeownership: on the self-esteem, perceived control and life satisfaction of low-income people. Journal of the American Planning Association, 60, 2, 173–84.
Rohe, W. M., Van Zandt, S. and McCarthy, G. 2002. Home ownership and access to opportunity. Housing Studies, 17, 1, 5161.
Rossi, P. H. and Weber, E. 1996. The social benefits of home ownership: empirical evidence from National Surveys. Housing Policy Debate, 7, 1, 135.
Saunders, P. 1990. A Nation of Homeowners. Unwin Hyman, London.
Shinn, M., Gottlieb, J., Wett, J. L., Bahl, A., Cohen, A. and Baron Ellis, D. 2007. Predictors of homelessness among older adults in New York City: disability, economic, human and social capital and stressful events. Journal of Health Psychology, 12, 5, 696708.
Sixsmith, A. and Sixsmith, J. 2008. Ageing in place in the United Kingdom. Ageing International, 32, 3, 219–35.
Smith, G. D. and Egger, M. 1992. Socioeconomic differences in mortality in Britain and the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 82, 8, 1079–81.
Statistics New Zealand 2014. 2013 Census QuickStats About People Aged 65 and Over. Available online at [Accessed 20 February 2017].
Szabo, A., Allen, J, Alpass, F. and Stephens, C. 2017. Longitudinal trajectories of quality of life and depression by housing tenure status. Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences. Published online, 22 March 2017, doi:10.1093/geronb/gbx028.
Tabachnick, B. G. and Fidell, L. S. 2007. Using Multivariate Statistics. Fifth edition, Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, Boston.
Towers, A., Stevenson, B., Breheny, M. and Allen, J. 2017. Health, Work and Retirement Longitudinal Study. In Pahana, N. (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Geropsychology. Springer, Singapore, 1025–33.
Towers, A., Yeung, P., Stevenson, B., Stephens, C. and Alpass, F. 2015. Quality of life in indigenous and non-indigenous older adults: assessing the CASP-12 factor structure and identifying a brief CASP-3. Quality of Life Research, 24, 1, 193203.
Valtorta, N. and Hanratty, B. 2012. Loneliness, isolation and the health of older adults: do we need a new research agenda? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 105, 12, 518–22.
Victor, C., Scambler, S., Bond, J. and Bowling, A. 2000. Being alone in later life: loneliness, social isolation and living alone. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 10, 4, 407–17.
Victor, C. R., Scambler, S. J., Bowling, A. N. N. and Bond, J. 2005. The prevalence of, and risk factors for, loneliness in later life: a survey of older people in Great Britain. Ageing & Society, 25, 6, 357–75.
Von dem Knesebeck, O., Lüschen, G., Cockerham, W. C. and Siegrist, J. 2003. Socioeconomic status and health among the aged in the United States and Germany: a comparative cross-sectional study. Social Science and Medicine, 57, 9, 1643–52.
Weiss, R. S. 1973. Loneliness: The Experience of Emotional and Social Isolation. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Wiggins, R. D., Netuveli, G., Hyde, M., Higgs, P. and Blane, D. 2008. The evaluation of a self-enumerated scale of QoL (CASP-19) in the context of research on ageing: a combination of exploratory and confirmatory approaches. Social Indicators Research, 89, 1, 6177.
Wiles, J. L., Leibing, A., Guberman, N., Reeve, J. and Allen, R. E. S. 2012. The meaning of ‘aging in place’ to older people. The Gerontologist, 52, 3, 357–66.
Windle, G. S., Burnholt, V. and Edwards, R. T. 2006. Housing related difficulties, housing tenure and variations in health status: evidence from older people in Wales. Health and Place, 12, 3, 267–78.
Woldoff, R. A. 2002. The effects of local stressors on neighborhood attachment. Social Forces, 81, 1, 87116.
Zumbro, T. 2014. The relationship between homeownership and life satisfaction in Germany. Housing Studies, 29, 3, 319–38.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed