Background: This study examines predictors of loneliness among low-income older adults through a framework named MODEL (Model of Depression and Loneliness), which we developed to address the need for a comprehensive and intervention-oriented theory of loneliness in old age. The framework is rooted in a cognitive-behavioral theory that conceptualizes behaviors as resulting from an interaction of cognitive processes and environmental events.
Methods: 161 residents of five independent-living buildings for low-income older adults in Maryland were interviewed individually. The assessments were based on the theoretical framework, MODEL, which describes the influences that environmental resources, health, and psychological factors have on loneliness and depression.
Results: MODEL explained a large percentage of the variance of both loneliness and depressed affect. Of all the barriers examined in the present study, our findings suggest that psychosocial factors/barriers have the strongest influence in the etiology of loneliness.
Conclusion: In this population of low-income older persons, the importance of new contacts, mobility, and financial resources in predicting loneliness suggests that preventive social services should target these factors in developing opportunities for socialization.