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Technological interventions are increasingly popular methods of targeting and preventing loneliness in older adults. Research has identified various factors that influence the willingness and propensity of older adults to integrate technology into their social lives and the ways in which this may enhance their social connectedness. Given prevalence rates and negative outcomes associated with loneliness for this population, further research is warranted to clarify the mechanisms through which technological interventions may decrease loneliness. This study aimed to better understand the perspectives of older adults on the role of technology in their social relationships in later life. Four focus groups were conducted with 27 older adults, aged 65–80 years. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis, and results were validated via written participant feedback. Participants reported technology as one of many tools used to maintain their social relationships. Their choice to use technology for social interaction was influenced by their estimation of effort required, likely quality of the interaction, and the privacy and security provided. These factors were the same as those that influenced decisions to use other methods (e.g. face-to-face meetings). Based on the results, we recommend that loneliness interventions should be technology-agnostic and multifaceted, providing a wide range of tools that recognise the technological competencies of older adults and supporting different interaction types to meet the preferences of the individual.
Purposeful adults may experience greater cognitive resilience because sense of purpose may help buffer against the effects of depressive symptoms and loneliness. We also evaluated whether these associations differed by race.
This study uses a wave of self-report data from the SPAN study of psychosocial aging.
Participants come from a representative sample of older adults in St. Louis.
Participants (N = 595) ages range from 65 to 78 (Mage = 71.46), with 18.3% of participants identifying as Black/African-American.
Sense of purpose was assessed with the Life Engagement Test, depressive symptoms with the Beck Depression Inventory-II, loneliness with the UCLA Loneliness Scale, and subjective cognitive decline with the AD-8.
Correlational analyses supported predictions that sense of purpose was negatively related to subjective cognitive decline, whereas depressive symptoms and loneliness were positively related (|r|s > .30, ps < .001). For loneliness, but not depression, this association was moderated by sense of purpose (b = −0.43, p < .001). A relatively high sense of purpose attenuated associations between loneliness and subjective cognitive decline. A three-way race × purpose × loneliness interaction (b = −0.25, p = .021) revealed that the buffering effects of sense of purpose on subjective cognitive decline were stronger for Black adults.
This study provided partial support for the buffering hypothesis, showing that sense of purpose may help mitigate the cognitive decrements associated with loneliness. Future research needs to consider how purpose-promoting programs may support healthy cognitive aging, particularly among Black older adults and those who experience greater social isolation.
Loneliness, a negative emotion stemming from the perception of unmet social needs, is a major public health concern. Current interventions often target social domains but produce small effects and are not as effective as established emotion regulation (ER)-based interventions for general psychological distress (i.e., depression/anxiety). Given that loneliness and distress are types of negative affect, we aimed to compare them within an ER framework by examining the amount of variance ER strategies accounted for in loneliness versus distress, and comparing the ER strategy profiles characterising them. Participants (N = 582, Mage = 22.31, 77.66% female) completed self-report measures of loneliness, distress, and use of 12 cognitive (e.g., cognitive reappraisal) or behavioural (e.g., expressive suppression) ER strategies. Regression analyses revealed that ER explained comparable variance in these constructs. Latent profile analysis identified seven profiles differing in ER patterns, with no distinct loneliness or distress profile identified. Rather, similar patterns of ER characterised these two constructs, involving the greater use of generally maladaptive strategies and the lesser use of generally adaptive strategies. However, loneliness was additionally characterised by less use of strategies involving social connection/expression. Overall, our study supports the utility of ER for understanding loneliness. Established ER-based frameworks/interventions for distress may have transdiagnostic utility in targeting loneliness.
Loneliness and social isolation condition the health of those over 65 years of age, increasing morbidity and mortality. The pandemic caused by Covid-19 has been a health emergency in which the negative effects have been increased by loneliness. We can define several types of loneliness: physical loneliness, moral loneliness and social isolation.
The objective was to analyze the impact of Covid-19 on the feeling of loneliness in those over 65 years of age during the last year of the pandemic.
A bibliographic search was carried out in Pubmed with the terms “loneliness in elderly in the covid-19 pandemic” with the filters “abstract” and “in the last 1 year”, selecting the studies whose title included the terms “loneliness”, “elderly” or “older people” and “Covid-19 ” or “SARS-Cov-2”. The search gave rise to 13 results, of which the content of the abstracts was qualitatively analyzed.
All studies found an increase in loneliness in the elderly, and more than 50% reported a decrease in this feeling in the elderly trained in new technologies. Other aspects that stood out to influence were comorbidity, resilience, economic situation, social support and subjective feeling of vulnerability.
Older adults avoid direct social contact to protect themselves. This may result in loneliness, that can have serious consequences in terms of morbidity and mortality. To mitigate loneliness they can use online social media, but older adults need to be trained. Institutions and public powers have the obligation to ensure individual and collective security, and protect the integrity of people from dangers.
Loneliness among older people is perceived as a global public health concern, although assumptions that old age is a particularly lonely time for everyone are not accurate. While there is accumulating quantitative and qualitative evidence on the experience and impact of loneliness amongst older adults, there is little exploration of methodological issues that arise in engaging with older adults particularly through research-oriented conversations. The sensitivity and stigma often attached to loneliness means that interviewing research participants presents ethical challenges for researchers navigating complex emotional responses. This paper presents reflections from three research projects that used research interviews to explore accounts of loneliness experienced by older people. The everyday methodological decisions of research teams are often hidden from view, but through a critical examination of reflexive accounts of fieldwork, this paper makes visible the internal and external negotiations of researchers responding to ethical complexity. The paper explores the key decisions that researchers make during interviews about loneliness: how to introduce the topic; how to phrase questions about loneliness; when to ask the questions; how to deal with the stigma of loneliness and respond to ageism; and how to manage the participant–researcher relationship post-interview. The paper concludes with recommendations for appropriately navigating ethical complexity in loneliness research, thus contributing to an effective qualitative methodological approach to researching loneliness in later life.
Objective: To provide a quantitative assessment of the literature examining the cross-sectional association between loneliness and depressive symptoms in children and adolescents. Method: A total of 44 studies from 35 articles (n = 27, 214; mean age 13.63 years; 51% female) met inclusion criteria. Results: A medium, positive correlation between loneliness and depressive symptoms in children and adolescents was found (r = .48). Age and gender did not moderate the relationship between loneliness and depressive symptoms. Conclusion: Loneliness may be a particular risk factor for depression. These results have implications for COVID-19 disease containment measures.
There is paucity of epidemiological studies from the Arab world and most of the focus of available international data is on the early months of the pandemic.
We conducted the first cross-sectional national phone survey of adults in Qatar during the end of the first wave of the pandemic (December 2020 -January 2021) to estimate the prevalence and determinants of depression and/or anxiety.
We used the Physician Health Questionnaire-9 and Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 with cut-off scores of ≥10; the revised UCLA loneliness scale; and questions related to COVID-19 status, death of family or friend, quarantine, health and changes in living arrangements. Bivariate and logistic regression models estimated associations between thirteen variables and combined depression-anxiety (score of 20 or higher).
The two-week prevalence of depression was 6.5% (95%CI: 5.1-8.4), of anxiety 5.1% (95%CI: 3.8-6.9), but only 2.5% sought mental health professional help since the pandemic started. When including loneliness (OR=1.57, p (<0.001) in the model, the following variables were statistically significantly associated with depression-anxiety: female gender (OR=1.90, p=0.037), Qatari nationality (OR=2.37, p=0.018), Arab ethnicity (OR=3.14, p=0.007), and COVID-19 death of family or friend (OR=3.06, p=0.003). Without adjusting for loneliness, younger age (18-29 versus 40+ years of age: OR=2.9, p=0.004) and chronic health conditions (OR=2.0, p=0.029) were significantly associated with depression-anxiety.
Prevalence of depression and/or anxiety during the end of the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic in Qatar was similar to pre-pandemic estimates. Mental health service should focus on young adults, women, the bereaved, lonely and those with chronic health problems.
Imposing quarantine as a measure to manage the coronavirus pandemic is a stressful event that is often associated with negative psychological effects. Eating habits seemed to be significantly affected during the quarantine, while strong negative emotions were triggered as the feeling of loneliness increased at the same time.
This study aims to investigate the eating habits of individuals during quarantine and the role of positive and negative emotions and loneliness in shaping these habits.
An online cross-sectional study was performed using 3 validated scales, EAT-26 (3 subscales: Dieting, Bulimia and Food Preoccupation, Oral Control), Modified Differential Emotions Scale and UCLA Loneliness Scale. Data was collected between April and May 2021 mainly from social media platforms. Statistical analyses included linear regression and mediation analyses.
Abnormal eating habits were detected in 25% of the participants (N= 450, ages 18-74) while the majority reported medium rates of negative/positive emotions and loneliness. Female sex is associated with abnormal eating habits (p=0.010) and mainly dietary behaviors (p=0.029). Negative emotions (p=0.032) and loneliness (p=0.001) seem to be predictive factors of eating habits in general and bulimic behaviors. Negative emotions correlate directly with eating habits. However, we found a significant mediation of loneliness (p=0.032). Furthermore, the observed association between negative emotions and bulimia is partly mediated by loneliness (p=0.018).
Negative emotions and loneliness seemed to play an important role in shaping eating habits during quarantine. Multilevel public health interventions are needed to address the negative effects of quarantine and pandemic in general.
Covid-19-pandemic is likely to have a substantial and long-term effect on the mental health of the adult Hungarian population.
To investigate the self-reported change of loneliness, change in well-being, and change in the numbers of significant others due to Covid-19-pandemic.
Computer-assisted web interviewing is being conducted. Survey design uses a multistaged sampling and iterative weighting algorithm, both based on the 2016 Hungarian micro census. The sample can be considered representative for age, gender, educational attainment, region, and size of the settlement. Continuous variables will be tested for normality of distribution using the Shapiro–Wilk, and Kolmogorov–Smirnov tests. To check the comparability of the two groups, the Mann–Whitney U tests will be applied. The cross-tabulation Pearson chi-square and Fisher’s exact tests will be performed to assess the association between categorical variables. Two-sample Z-tests will be applied to evaluate the difference between the proportions of the two groups. Multivariable logistic regression models will be also applied to understand the association between the direction of change and sociodemographic variables.
The survey is currently being conducted; results shall be presented at the conference.
The survey is currently being conducted; results and conclusions shall be presented at the conference.
Previous research was not able to identify an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on family care-givers' wellbeing due to cross-sectional data structures, care-giver-specific samples or non-probability sampling designs. In this article, by drawing on longitudinal data from a random and representative sample of the German population aged 40 and older, we overcome methodological limitations of previous research. We examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing (life satisfaction, depressive symptoms, loneliness) of different groups of family care-givers (new care-givers, continuous care-givers, past care-givers) and non-care-givers in Germany. We derived a balanced sample of n = 3,875 individuals aged 43–97 (mean = 66.5 years, standard deviation = 10.2 years) from the German Ageing Survey (DEAS) to explore changes in wellbeing between 2017 (pre-pandemic) and June/July 2020 (pandemic). Using a first-difference approach, we found that the pandemic has a negative impact on both non-care-givers' and family care-givers' wellbeing, with increased levels of depressive symptoms and loneliness compared to pre-pandemic times. Changes in depressive symptoms of family care-givers did not significantly deviate from non-care-givers. However, continuous care-givers showed more pronounced increases in loneliness compared to non-care-givers. Our results suggest that family care-givers' wellbeing merits particular attention when considering the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals' wellbeing.
Research has demonstrated that life transitions lead to heightened experiences of loneliness, in part because they engender isolation. We tested whether the degree of isolation during a transition influences loneliness, and if this is due to their effects on social identity processes. Employing an experimental paradigm, Study 1 (N = 213) found that when the transition involved isolation from new networks, in this case studying at university online as opposed to in person, it led to more loneliness, and this was mediated through reduced social identification and continuity of group memberships. Study 2 (N = 215) replicated these effects using a different experimental paradigm in which the transition involved isolation from old group memberships, namely moving to a new neighbourhood from interstate. Study 3 (N = 2346) employed a quasi-experimental repeated-measures design to assess the impact of a highly isolating life transition on loneliness–COVID lockdown. Australians in prolonged lockdown experienced increases in loneliness and this was mediated through (lack of) continuity of group memberships. Overall, these results suggest that isolation needs to be considered when assessing the impact of life transitions on loneliness. Moreover, the mediation results indicate that isolating transitions may be responsible for loneliness because these make it difficult to maintain crucial group memberships and form a sense of identification with relevant new groups.
Despite theoretical accounts asserting the importance of children for the wellbeing of individuals as they age, research evidence suggests that children may be inconsequential when it comes to loneliness. Yet, there is reason to expect some subgroups may be more vulnerable to the impact of childlessness than others and this may also differ depending on the type of loneliness being assessed. This paper addresses the relationship between childlessness and social and emotional loneliness in middle and later life, including differential vulnerability associated with age, gender and marital/partner status. The study drew on data from three waves (2007, 2012 and 2018) of the Canadian General Social Survey for a nationally representative sample of adults aged 45 and older (N = 49,892). In general, childlessness assumed greater importance with regard to social than emotional loneliness. Women reported lower levels of social loneliness in conjunction with childlessness than men. Further, childlessness was associated with higher levels of overall and social loneliness among older than middle-aged adults. Fewer interactions were evident between marital/partner status and childlessness. Among women specifically, those who were co-habiting, separated/divorced or never married reported lower levels of social loneliness than their married counterparts. In contrast, childlessness was linked to greater emotional loneliness only among separated/divorced men and widowed women. Overall, our results suggest that having children available does matter for feelings of loneliness in middle and later life but that the relationship varies and is contingent on the social contexts (age, gender, marital/partner status) and the type of loneliness (social, emotional) involved.
Immune system aging, a process known as immunosenescence, involves a striking rearrangement affecting all immune cells, resulting in an increased rate of infections and a major incidence of autoimmune diseases and cancer. Nonetheless, differences in how individuals of the same chronological age carry out this immunosenescence establishment and thus the aging rate have been reported. In the context of neuroimmunoendocrine communication and its role in the response to stress situations, growing evidence suggests that social environments profoundly influence all physiological responses, especially those linked to immunity. Accordingly, negative contexts (loneliness in humans/social isolation in rodents) were associated with immune impairments and decreased lifespan. However, positive social environments have been correlated with adequate immunity and increased lifespan. Therefore, the social context in which an individual lives is proposed as a decisive modulator of the immunosenescence process and, consequently, of the rate of aging. In this review, the most important findings regarding how different social environments (negative and positive) modulate immunosenescence and therefore the aging rate, as well as the role of stress responses, hormesis, and resilience in these environments will be explained. Finally, several possible molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of negative and positive environments on immunosenescence will be suggested.
Loneliness is linked to many negative health outcomes and places strain on the economy and the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. To combat these issues, the determinants of loneliness need to be fully understood. Although friendships have been shown to be particularly important in relation to loneliness in older adults, this association has thus far not been explored more closely. Our exploratory study examines the relationship between number of friends and loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress in older adults. Data were obtained from 335 older adults via completion of an online survey. Measures included loneliness (UCLA Loneliness Scale version 3), depression, anxiety and stress (Depression Anxiety Stress Scales DASS-21). Participants also reported their number of close friends. Regression analyses revealed an inverse curvilinear relationship between number of friends and each of the measures tested. Breakpoint analyses demonstrated a threshold for the effect of number of friends on each of the measures (loneliness = 4, depression = 2, anxiety = 3, stress = 2). The results suggest that there is a limit to the benefit of increasing the number of friends in older adults for each of these measures. The elucidation of these optimal thresholds can inform the practice of those involved in loneliness interventions for older adults. These interventions can become more targeted; focusing on either establishing four close friendships, increasing the emotional closeness of existing friendships or concentrating resources on other determinants of loneliness in this population.
Little is known about the degree to which social factors interact with COVID-19-related adversity to increase the risk of self-harm thoughts and behaviours. Using data derived from a UK cohort study, Paul & Fancourt found that loneliness was associated with an increase in the odds of self-harm thoughts and behaviours, whereas high-quality social support protected against self-harm thoughts and behaviours. The authors concluded that it is the quality of social support and interactions, rather than the act of engaging in social interaction per se, that protects against self-harm in the context of adversity. The COVID-19 pandemic may exert longer-lasting effects on population mental health, and continued surveillance of mental health, including self-harm status, will be essential. If accompanied by appropriate measures of the availability and quality of social support, such monitoring could also inform the development of more effective adaptive interventions for those at risk of engaging in self-harm.
Loneliness and isolation worsen health and wellbeing have been exacerbated by COVID-19, and represent a significant concern for supporting older adults. Music listening has effects that could be particularly supportive during periods of isolation. The aim of this study is to examine older adults’ music listening behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic and explore music's social and emotional impact in this context. Semi-structured interviews enhanced with music-elicitation were carried out remotely between May and June 2021. Participants were self-selected, community-dwelling older adults residing in Northern Ireland (N = 14; 6 males; 60–83 years). Most were living with their spouse or family, all were of White ethnicity and had varying levels of education. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Two main themes were identified: (1) Music as an emotional resource and (2) Music as a social surrogate. Older adults had a preference for using music to induce positive feelings, and used music for negative affect regulation and consolation. Music acted as a social surrogate providing company, and reminders of social relationships and experiences. Music listening was a valued behaviour during COVID-19. Findings have implications for how music listening might be used as an accessible, low-resource tool for supporting isolated older adults.
Loneliness is an increasingly ubiquitous topic in academic, policy, and healthcare domains. This work typically focuses on its negative physical and mental health consequences, generally employing a singular cognitive definition of loneliness. In doing so, one central aspect of our social world has been neglected in loneliness research and policy: touch. Touch is a fundamental human behaviour and a powerful form of communication which plays a role in physical and psychological wellbeing. This narrative review outlines a conceptual basis upon which to consider the relationship between loneliness and social touch and reviews the available research examining this connection. There are strong indications that these social phenomena can interact in a variety of ways and this review argues that elements of presence, absence, and type of touch may impact upon loneliness experiences. Additionally, this review considers the challenges inherent to researching touch and loneliness, reflecting on their sensitive and subjective nature. The increasing relevance of the touch–loneliness connection is described in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and recommendations are given for research, policy, and practice. This review proposes that touch should be a key topic for investigation in loneliness research and outlines the potentially invaluable role of touch in understanding loneliness.
Involuntary retirement is associated with diminished mental health. However, little is known about the mechanism that connects involuntary retirees' coping resources to their loneliness. Gender patterns in the mechanism of involuntary retirement are also unclear. This study examines gender differences in the link between involuntary retirement and loneliness through secondary stressors (material and physical vulnerability) and coping resources (social support and self-efficacy). Two-step structural equation modelling was used to examine the effects of several mediators. For both men and women, involuntary retirement was associated with increased loneliness in terms of physical vulnerability and social efficacy. We found the female involuntary retirees are facing loneliness with multiple mediating factors. The layers of experiencing loneliness among female retirees are (a) directly from involuntary retirement; (b) indirectly from involuntary retirement and secondary stressors (material vulnerability and physical vulnerability); and (c) indirectly from involuntary retirement, secondary stressors (material vulnerability and physical vulnerability) and coping resources. The specific gender differences in the complex mechanism leading to later-year loneliness among the retirees may inform the interventions and policies that mitigate the disadvantages among involuntarily retired older adults in the United States of America.
A desire for belonging is a fundamental feature of humans. Securing and maintaining a bond is rewarding, whereas abandonment, jilting and loneliness trigger strongly aversive feelings. The chapter’s emphasis is upon belonging, and the theoretical basis of understanding Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilsen is different from those in the preceding chapters. They seem to be motivated by a combination of sexual desire and an abnormally powerful desire to avoid rejection and loneliness. This led them in a perverse direction whereby the need might even be met by a zombie partner. This raises the question of whether finding early on a conventional secure and compliant attachment could have prevented their killings. There is little or no evidence to suggest that they enjoyed killing or held sadistic desires. Dahmer suffered from neglect. Nilsen seemed to imprint upon the image of his dead grandfather.
The move to online learning during COVID-19 deprived first-year students of friendships and other sources of social support that could buffer against stress during their transition to university. These effects may have been worse for international students than domestic students as many were subjected to travel restrictions or quarantine in addition to the usual stressors. This study examined the impact of COVID-19 on social connectedness and mental health of first-year students enrolled in a metropolitan university in Australia. The study involved 1239 students (30.4% international) and used a 3 (cohorts: 2019, 2020, 2021) × 2 (enrolment status: domestic and international) between-group design. Results showed that both loneliness and university belonging were significantly worse during the first year of COVID-19 compared to the year before or after. Contrary to expectation, domestic students were lonelier than international students across all cohorts. Multiple-group memberships did not change. As predicted, loneliness was moderately to highly correlated with the number of stressors, psychological distress, and (lower) well-being, whereas university belonging and multiple-group memberships were related to positive mental health outcomes. These findings highlight the need for initiatives that promote student connectedness and mental health as the university sector recovers from COVID-19.