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Loneliness - Loneliness And Selected Factors

age social social emotional lonely isolation

Background issues related to loneliness include the following:

  • Gender. Gender is a more consistent predictor of loneliness than is age. Studies show that either gender has no effect on loneliness, or that women are more lonely than men.
  • Race and ethnicity. Race and ethnicity have not been systematically examined with regard to loneliness. Cross-racial, or cross-ethnic, comparisons of loneliness and its antecedents have not yet been conducted in a manner that lends any clarity to interpretation.
  • Urban/rural residence. It is commonly held that urban elders are more lonely and isolated than their rural counterparts, though research has not consistently confirmed this stereotype.
  • Health. The overall weight of the evidence points to a reasonably strong and consistent association between poorer physical and/or mental health, and greater loneliness.

Interpersonal relationships also factor into an individual's potential loneliness.

  • Spouse. Results indicate greater loneliness in the absence of a mate. Severe loneliness appears to be unusual among married men, somewhat more prevalent among married women, and quite prevalent among unmarried individuals of either sex.
  • Children. Studies of the relationship between adult children and loneliness show conflicting results. Most have found no association between frequency of contact with children and loneliness. The commitment in the relationship seems to be more important than the actual contact.
  • Friends. Research shows that close friends exert a positive influence on the emotional well-being of older persons. Older persons who have contact with their friends, and especially those who are satisfied with these relationships, are less lonely.

The two essential aspects of loneliness, i.e., the loneliness associated with social isolation and/or with emotional isolation, shows that they can be experienced as an affective emotional experience in which a person feels apart from other persons and from familiar support networks. In turn, this can lead to a realization that social contacts are diminishing, lacking, or not at a level that are emotionally supportive or satisfying.



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HALL-ELSTON, C., and MULLINS, L. "Social Relationships, Emotional Closeness and Loneliness among Older Meal Participants." Social Behavior and Personality 27 (1999): 503.

JOHNSON, D., and MULLINS, L. "Growing Old and Lonely in Different Societies: Toward a Comparative Perspective." Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 1 (1987): 257.

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VAN TILBURG, T., and DE JONG GIERVELD, J. "Cesuurbepaling van de Eenzaamheidsschall [Cutting Scores on the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale]." Tijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie 30 (1999): 158.

VENCENZI, H., and GRABOSKY, F. "Measuring the Emotional/Social Aspects of Loneliness and Isolation." In Loneliness: Theory, Research, and Applications. Edited by M. Hojat and R. Crandall. Newberry Park, Calif.: Sage, 1989. Pages 257–270.

WEISS, R. Loneliness: The Experience of Emotional and Social Isolation. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1973.

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