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Academic debate about social isolation and loneliness, and their adverse health and well-being implications, has resulted in many policy and programme interventions directed towards reducing both, especially among older people. However, definitions of the two concepts, their measurement, and the relationship between the two are not clearly articulated. This article redresses this and draws on theoretical constructs adapted from symbolic interactionism, together with the Good Relations Measurement Framework, developed for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK, to challenge the way in which social isolation and loneliness are currently understood. It argues for a need to understand experiences of social relationships, particularly those which facilitate meaningful interaction, suggesting that opportunities and barriers to meaningful interaction are determined by wider societal issues. This is set out in a new conceptual framework which can be applied across the life course and facilitates a new discourse for understanding these challenging concepts.
The purpose of this research was to examine the associations between self-esteem, perceived social competence, ostracism and loneliness among adolescent students. For the investigation of self-esteem and perceived social competence as key developmental constructs concerning negative experiences such as ostracism and loneliness, it is important to understand the experiences that may inhibit individual development in adolescence. Participants were 542 presecondary and secondary school students who completed the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the Perceived Social Competence Scale, the Ostracism Experience Scale for Adolescents, and the Loneliness Scale for Children. The data were analysed with Pearson moments correlation analysis and multiple regression analysis. Findings showed that: (1) self-esteem, perceived social competence, ostracism and loneliness were related to each other; (2) self-esteem and perceived social competence were negatively related to ostracism and loneliness; (3) ostracism had a positive relationship with loneliness and a negative impact on self-esteem; and (4) an increase in the level of perceived social competence predicted a decrease in the levels of ostracism and loneliness. The results were discussed in the light of relevant literature.
The present study used a longitudinal and discordant twin design to explore in depth the developmental associations between victimization and loneliness from mid-childhood to young adulthood. The data were drawn from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a birth cohort of 2,232 individuals born in England and Wales during 1994–1995. Diverse forms of victimization were considered, differing across context, perpetrator, and timing of exposure. The results indicated that exposure to different forms of victimization was associated with loneliness in a dose–response manner. In childhood, bullying victimization was uniquely associated with loneliness, over and above concurrent psychopathology, social isolation, and genetic risk. Moreover, childhood bullying victimization continued to predict loneliness in young adulthood, even in the absence of ongoing victimization. Within-twin pair analyses further indicated that this longitudinal association was explained by genetic confounds. In adolescence, varied forms of victimization were correlated with young adult loneliness, with maltreatment, neglect, and cybervictimization remaining robust to controls for genetic confounds. These findings indicate that vulnerability to loneliness in victimized young people varies according to the specific form of victimization in question, and also to the developmental period in which it was experienced.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is likely to exacerbate the symptoms of poor mental health in family caregivers.
To investigate whether rates of depressive symptomatology increased in caregivers during COVID-19 and whether the unintended consequences of health protective measures, i.e., social isolation, exacerbated this risk. Another aim was to see if caregivers accessed any online/phone psychological support during COVID.
Data (1349 caregivers; 6178 non-caregivers) was extracted from Understanding Society, a UK population-level data-set. The General Health Questionnaire cut-off scores identified those who are likely to have depression.
After adjustment for confounding caregivers had a higher risk of having depressive symptoms compared with non-caregivers, odds ratio (OR) = 1.22 (95% CI 1.05–1.40, P = 0.008) evidenced by higher levels of depression pre-COVID-19 (16.7% caregivers v. 12.1% non-caregivers) and during the COVID-19 pandemic (21.6% caregivers v. 17.9% non-caregivers), respectively. Further, higher levels of loneliness increased the risk of depression symptoms almost four-fold in caregivers, OR = 3.85 (95% 95% CI 3.08–4.85, P < 0.001), whereas accessing therapy attenuated the risk of depression (43%). A total of 60% of caregivers with depression symptoms reported not accessing any therapeutic support (for example online or face to face) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has had a negative impact on family caregivers’ mental health with loneliness a significant contributor to depressive symptomatology. However, despite these detriments in mental health, the majority of caregivers do not access any online or phone psychiatric support. Finally, psychiatric services and healthcare professionals should aim to focus on reducing feelings of loneliness to support at-risk caregivers.
Research points to a higher risk for social isolation and loneliness among new immigrant and refugee older adults. Our article draws from a research project that explored the everyday stories of ageing among 19 diverse immigrant older adults in Canada. To capture their experiences of loneliness and social isolation, we use four illustrative cases derived from a structural approach to life-story narrative. To these we apply the intersectional lifecourse analytical lens to examine how life events, timing and structural forces shape our participants’ experiences of social isolation and loneliness. We further explore the global and linked lives of our participants as well as the categories of difference that influence their experiences along the continua of loneliness to belonging, isolation to connection. Finally, we discuss how an understanding of sources of domination and expressions of agency and resistance to these forces might lead us to solutions.
Loneliness is related to mental and somatic health outcomes, including borderline personality disorder. Here, we analyze the sources of variation that are responsible for the relationship between borderline personality features (including four dimensions, affective instability, identity disturbance, negative relationships, self-harm and a total score) and loneliness. Using genetically informative data from two large nonclinical samples of adult twin pairs from Australia and the Netherlands (N = 11,329), we estimate the phenotypic, genetic and environmental correlations between self-reported borderline personality features and loneliness. Individual differences in borderline personality and loneliness were best explained by additive genetic factors with heritability estimates h2 = 41% for the borderline personality total score and h2 = 36% for loneliness, with the remaining variation explained by environmental influences that were not shared by twins from the same pair. Genetic and environmental factors influencing borderline personality (total score and four subscales separately) were also partial causes of loneliness. The correlation between loneliness and the borderline personality total score was rph = .51. The genetic correlation was estimated at rg = .64 and the environmental correlation at re = .40. Our study suggests common etiological factors in loneliness and borderline personality features.
Across literature on loneliness and ageing, little attention is given to the intersection of ageing, sexuality and masculinities, and how this shapes the social connections of older men. We report findings from a qualitative study of older men's experiences of loneliness and social participation, focusing on perspectives from two groups who are single and/or living alone: men identifying as (a) heterosexual and (b) gay (not bisexual). We present findings generated from semi-structured interviews with 72 men residing in England (65–95 years). We discuss three prominent themes: (a) loneliness, loss and social dislocation; (b) diverging life-events that trigger loneliness; and (c) variations in visibility and exclusion across social settings. Embedded within men's descriptions of loneliness is a running theme of social dislocation that speaks to a wider sense of social separation and estrangement. Unique to gay men's accounts are the ways in which experiences of loneliness and social isolation are compounded by living in heteronormative social environments and their encounters with ageism in gay social settings. Older men's accounts convey anxieties about visibility and anticipated exclusion across social settings shared with other men that vary according to sexual identity and context. We discuss how sexuality and being single and/or living alone impact on older men's social participation as we seek to move beyond a heterocentric understanding of loneliness.
Individual with internet gaming disorder (IGD) often experience a high level of loneliness, and neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that amygdala function is associated with both IGD and loneliness. However, the neurobiological basis underlying these relationships remains unclear.
In the current study, Granger causal analysis was performed to investigate amygdalar subdivision-based resting-state effective connectivity differences between 111 IGD subjects and 120 matched participants with recreational game use (RGUs). We further correlated neuroimaging findings with clinical measures. Mediation analysis was conducted to explore whether amygdalar subdivision-based effective connectivity mediated the relationship between IGD severity and loneliness.
Compared with RGUs, IGD subjects showed inhibitory effective connections from the left pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC) to the left laterobasal amygdala (LBA) and from the right medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to the left LBA, as well as an excitatory effective connection from the left middle prefrontal gyrus (MFG) to the right superficial amygdala. Further analyses demonstrated that the left pACC-left LBA effective connection was negatively correlated with both Internet Addiction Test and UCLA Loneliness scores, and it mediated the relationship between the two.
IGD subjects and RGUs showed different connectivity patterns involving amygdalar subdivisions. These findings support a neurobiological mechanism for the relationship between IGD and loneliness, and suggest targets for therapeutic approaches that could be used to treat IGD.
Suicide in the elderly is a complex and significant public health problem. The purpose of our study was to examine the role of loneliness and social integration as potential mediators in the relationship between physical pain and suicidal ideation in the elderly.
Descriptive, bivariate correlations, and moderated mediation analyses were performed.
Personal meetings were held with participants in their homes.
A total of 198 elderly men aged 65 and over.
Self-report measures: Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation, Physical pain subscale, Multidimensional Social Integration in Later Life Scale, and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Loneliness Scale (Version 3).
Our findings showed that the association between physical pain and suicidal ideation was mediated by loneliness and social integration. Further analyses revealed that this mediation model was significant among single, but not married, men.
Physical pain and social factors are both important in understanding suicidality in late life. Elderly single men who experience physical pain may be lonelier and less socially integrated, and these factors may contribute to higher risk of suicidal ideation.
To test the independent and combined impact of social cohesion and geographic locale (urban/rural) on quality of life (QoL) for older adults in China. Using conditional process analysis, we tested three hypotheses: (1) QoL will be lower for persons living alone than those who live with family; (2) social cohesion will mediate the association of living arrangement and QoL; and (3) geographic locale will moderate direct and indirect pathways in the mediation model.
Cross-sectional data from WHO Study on Global Aging and Adult Health (SAGE) (China, Wave 1, 2007–2010).
National probability sample of 74 primary sampling units in China, 32 in urban, and 32 in rural areas.
A total of 9,663 adults aged 50 years and older.
We measured QOL with the 8-item version of the WHOQOL-Bref; living arrangement as alone versus with family; and social cohesion with an 9-item index of frequency of a range of social activities in the previous 12 months. We controlled for sociodemographic characteristics and health and mental health variables in multivariate analyses.
Data supported the first two hypotheses; however, the mediating effects of social cohesion held only in urban areas.
This study advances the large body of work on living arrangements and well-being of older adults in China. Social cohesion contributed to better QoL regardless of living arrangement, and cohesion mediated the association of living arrangement and QOL in urban but not rural areas. Programs and policies that strengthen social cohesion through older adults’ community involvement, especially in urban areas, will help to enhance QoL.
Healthy older adults typically retain high functioning in the social realm. Nevertheless, social networks, social support, and qualities of relationships vary in late life. This chapter addresses three questions: (1) What areas of cognitive functioning are associated with the social realm? (2) What mechanisms account for these associations? (3) Do these patterns extend to pathological declines associated with dementia? Individuals with a diversity of social partners retain general cognitive functioning more so than individuals with a limited set of social partners. Social integration provides stimulation and activities, and mitigates negative emotion in ways that contribute to cognitive health. Findings suggest that social ties cannot deter pathological declines associated with dementia. In sum, a wide range of social partners appears to be one of multiple resources (e.g., higher socioeconomic status, better locus of control, better health behaviors) that help maintain cognitive functioning in late life.
The aim of this study was to explore associations between internet/email use in a large sample of older English adults with their social isolation and loneliness. Data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing Wave 8 were used, with complete data available for 4,492 men and women aged ⩾ 50 years (mean age = 64.3, standard deviation = 13.3; 51.7% males). Binomial logistic regression was used to analyse cross-sectional associations between internet/email use and social isolation and loneliness. The majority of older adults reported using the internet/email every day (69.3%), fewer participants reported once a week (8.5%), once a month (2.6%), once every three months (0.7%), less than every three months (1.5%) and never (17.4%). No significant associations were found between internet/email use and loneliness, however, non-linear associations were found for social isolation. Older adults using the internet/email either once a week (odds ratio (OR) = 0.60, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.49–0.72) or once a month (OR = 0.60, 95% CI = 0.45–0.80) were significantly less likely to be socially isolated than every day users; those using internet/email less than once every three months were significantly more likely to be socially isolated than every day users (OR = 2.87, 95% CI = 1.28–6.40). Once every three months and never users showed no difference in social isolation compared with every day users. Weak associations were found between different online activities and loneliness, and strong associations were found with social isolation. The study updated knowledge of older adults’ internet/email habits, devices used and activities engaged in online. Findings may be important for the design of digital behaviour change interventions in older adults, particularly in groups at risk of or interventions targeting loneliness and/or social isolation.
As the systems that people depend on are increasingly strained by the coronavirus disease–2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, public health impacts are manifesting in different ways beyond morbidity and mortality for elderly populations. Loneliness is already a chief public health concern that is being made worse by COVID-19. Agencies should recognize the prevalence of loneliness among elderly populations and the impacts that their interventions have on loneliness. This letter describes several ways that loneliness can be addressed to build resilience for elderly populations as part of the public health response to COVID-19.
Social isolation and loneliness have each been associated with cognitive decline, but most previous research is limited to Western populations. This study examined the relationships of social isolation and loneliness on cognitive function among Chinese older adults.
This study used two waves of data (2011 and 2015) from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) and analyses were restricted to those respondents aged 50 and older. Social isolation, loneliness, and cognitive function were measured at baseline. Follow-up measures on cognitive function were obtained for 7761 participants (mean age = 60.97, s.d. = 7.31; male, 50.8%). Lagged dependent variable models adjusted for confounding factors were used to evaluate the association between baseline isolation, loneliness, and cognitive function at follow-up.
Loneliness was significantly associated with the cognitive decline at follow-up (episodic memory: β = −0.03, p < 0.01; mental status: β = −0.03, p < 0.01) in the partially adjusted models. These associations became insignificant after additional confounding variables (chronic diseases, health behaviors, disabilities, and depressive symptoms) were taken into account (all p > 0.05). By contrast, social isolation was significantly associated with decreases in all cognitive function measures at follow-up (episodic memory: β = −0.05, p < 0.001; mental status: β = −0.03, p < 0.01) even after controlling for loneliness and all confounding variables.
Social isolation is associated with cognitive decline in Chinese older adults, and the relationships are independent of loneliness. These findings expand our knowledge about the links between social relationships and the cognitive function in non-Western populations.
Social humans are embedded with a variety of relationships. Satisfactory social support is crucial for having physical and psychological well being.
The purpose of the present study was to find empirical support for the connections between perceived social support and loneliness with life satisfaction.
Material & methods
226 students of Golestan University of Medical Sciences participated in the study. They were assessed using demographic questions, Multidimensional scale of Perceived Social Support, Life Satisfaction Scale, and Loneliness Scale. Using SPSS (16) and Pearson correlation test, linear regression the data were analyzed.
122 male and 104 female students filled the questionnaires. 91 percents of the students were single and also 95 percents were residents of university dormitories. There was a significant relationship between life satisfaction with loneliness in the subjects (p< 0.05). The higher social support from the family and friends was also correlated with more life satisfaction and less loneliness (p< 0.05). Linear regression showed a significant correlation among social support, life satisfaction with loneliness.
Findings suggest, appropriate social support can reduce loneliness and increase life satisfaction. It is also one of the well being predictors. Therefore the universities should provide strategies to facilitate social support from family and the significant others. The empowerment of the students using teaching social communication skills may be helpful as well. The results were discussed within the context of findings from the studies conducted in eastern and western cultures.
Understanding suicidal ideation may help develop more effective suicide screening and intervention programs. The interpersonal and the cognitive-deficit theories seek to describe the factors leading to suicidal behavior. In the military setting it is common to find over- and under-reporting of suicidal ideation. This study sought to determine the relationship between these two models and determine to what degree their components can indirectly predict suicidal ideation.
Suicide attempters (n = 32) were compared with non-suicidal psychologically treated peers (n = 38) and controls (n = 33), matched for sex and age (mean 19.7 years). Pearson's analysis was used to quantify the relationship between the variables from the two models and hierarchal regression analysis was used to determine the explanation of suicidal ideation variance by these variables.
Suicide attempters have more difficulties in problem-solving, negative emotion regulation and burdensomeness compared with their peers (P < .001). These variables are all closely correlated with each other and to suicide ideation (r > ± 0.5; P < .001). Prior suicide attempt, loneliness and burdensomeness together explain 65% (P < .001) of the variance in suicidal ideation.
Suicidal ideation is strongly correlated with components of interpersonal and cognitive difficulties. In addition to assessing current suicidal ideation, clinicians should assess past suicide attempt, loneliness and burdensomeness.
This article is based on research set up to explore temporal dimensions of loneliness amongst older people in a northern town. As the study progressed, spatial considerations and confinements emerged as a related and equally important feature. The article suggests that the ‘social sphere’ of lived reality, especially reality lived out in one confined space, is a prime candidate for what has been termed ‘de-familiarisation’. Social policy discourses focussed on ‘ageing in place’ can sometimes neglect the realities of older people’s circumstances, daily life and social contact. Central arguments put forward in the article are: that loneliness increases as spatial prospects recede; that ‘home’ can become a source of frustration and negativity rather than a source of solace and comfort; and that expanding and facilitating the social horizons of older people currently ‘confined’ to home should be prioritised within a genuinely age-friendly approach to social policy.
To investigate the effect of a social robot intervention on depression, loneliness, and quality of life of older adults in long-term care (LTC) and to explore participants’ experiences and perceptions after the intervention.
A mixed-methods approach consisting of a single group, before and after quasi-experimental design, and individual interview.
Twenty older adults with depression from four LTC facilities in Taiwan were recruited.
Each participant participated in 8 weeks of observation and 8 weeks of intervention. In the observation stage, participants received usual care or activities without any research intervention. In the intervention stage, each participant was given a Paro (Personal Assistive RobOt) to keep for 24 hours, 7 days a week.
The Geriatric Depression Scale, the UCLA Loneliness Scale Version 3, and the World Health Organization Quality of Life Questionnaire for older adults were administered at four time points. Individual qualitative interviews with thematic analysis followed.
A repeated multivariate analysis of variance and Friedmanʼs test showed no significant changes during the observation stage between T1 and T2 for depression and quality of life (p >.5). For the intervention stage, statistically significant changes in decreasing depression and loneliness and improving quality of life over time were identified. Three themes emerged from the interviews: (i) humanizing Paro through referring to personal experiences and engagement; (ii) increased social interaction with other people; and (iii) companionship resulting in improved mental well-being.
There were significant improvements in mental well-being in using Paro. Further research may help us to understand the advantages of using a Paro intervention as depression therapy.
Loneliness is a growing public health issue in the developed world. Among older adults, loneliness is a particular challenge, as the older segment of the population is growing and loneliness is comorbid with many mental as well as physical health issues. Comorbidity and common cause factors make identifying the antecedents of loneliness difficult, however, contemporary machine learning techniques are positioned to tackle this problem.
This study analyzed four cohorts of older individuals, split into two age groups – 45–69 and 70–79 – to examine which common psychological and sociodemographic are associated with loneliness at different ages. Gradient boosted modeling, a machine learning technique, and regression models were used to identify and replicate associations with loneliness.
In all cohorts, higher emotional stability was associated with lower loneliness. In the older group, social circumstances such as living alone were also associated with higher loneliness. In the younger group, extraversion's association with lower loneliness was the only other confirmed relationship.
Different individual and social factors might underlie loneliness differences in distinct age groups. Machine learning methods have the potential to unveil novel associations between psychological and social variables, particularly interactions, and mental health outcomes.
Older Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people living in the United Kingdom (UK) are vulnerable to the experiences of social isolation and loneliness. Despite this, it is widely assumed that they adhere to traditional family practices and living arrangements that protect them from social isolation and loneliness. Such assumptions are problematic and can reify family networks as the main area of research for older BME people to the detriment of friendship networks which are also crucial. However, few researchers have explored this area. With the older BME population increasing at a faster rate than the older white population, further research is needed. Utilising data from Wave 6 of Understanding Society (N = 7,499, 4.3% of whom self-identified as BME), this study explores the ways in which the friendship networks of older BME people differ compared to older white people using logistic regression analyses. After controlling for potential confounding socio-demographic characteristics, older BME people were more likely to report having fewer close friends and fewer friends who live locally, suggesting that their friendship networks may be restricted in quantity and accessibility. Not only do these findings raise important questions about the varying needs of older minority ethnic people who have been largely overlooked in recent government policy, but they also highlight the continuing challenges of using large-scale surveys to research older BME people in the UK.