Risk factors and mediating pathways of loneliness and social support in community-dwelling older adults

SCHITTGER Rebecca I. B., et al
Journal article citation:
Aging and Mental Health, 16(3), April 2012, pp.335-346.
Taylor and Francis

Loneliness is a pervasive issue among the elderly. Two forms of loneliness are: emotional loneliness, which involves the lack of a close attachment relationship; and social loneliness, which stems from the lack of a satisfying and engaging social network. The aim of this study was to identify the biopsychosocial and cognitive risk factors of emotional loneliness, social loneliness, and social support. The study participants were 579 community-dwelling older adults living in Dublin. The participants completed a battery of biopsychosocial, physiological, cognitive, and demographic assessments. Analysis of the results was used to develop comprehensive models of emotional loneliness, social loneliness, and social support. The risk factors in the model for: emotional loneliness included depression, neuroticism, perceived stress, living alone and accommodation type; social loneliness included neuroticism, perceived stress, animal naming and number of grandchildren; and social support included extraversion, executive functioning, history of falls, age and whether the participant drives or not. Social support influenced emotional loneliness predominantly through indirect means, while its effect on social loneliness was more direct. The differing nature of these models confirms the importance of distinguishing between different types of loneliness and also between a lack of social support and loneliness.

Subject terms:
loneliness, models, older people, personality, risk, social networks, depression;
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