Research Paper| Volume 23, ISSUE 5, P387-396, October 2009

Predictors of Loneliness in U.S. Adults Over Age Sixty-Five

  • Laurie A. Theeke
    Corresponding Author: Laurie A. Theeke, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Restoration, School of Nursing, West Virginia University, 6411 Health Sciences South, Morgantown, WV 26505.
    Department of Health Restoration, West Virginia University School of Nursing, Morgantown, WV.
    Search for articles by this author
Published:January 16, 2009DOI:
      The purpose of this study was to examine sociodemographic and health-related risks for loneliness among older adults using Health and Retirement Study Data. Overall prevalence of loneliness was 19.3%. Marital status, self-report of health, number of chronic illnesses, gross motor impairment, fine motor impairment, and living alone were predictors of loneliness. Age, female gender, use of home care, and frequency of healthcare visits were not predictive. Loneliness is a prevalent problem for older adults in the United States with its own health-related risks. Future research of interventions targeting identified risks would enhance the evidence base for nursing and the problem of loneliness.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Archives of Psychiatric Nursing
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Alpass F.M.
        • Neville S.
        Loneliness, health and depression in older males.
        Aging & Mental Health. 2003; 7: 212-216
        • Andersson L.
        Intervention against loneliness in a group of elderly women.
        Social Science Medicine. 1985; 20: 355-364
        • Andersson L.
        • Stevens N.
        Associations between early experiences with parents and well-being in old age.
        Journal of Gerontology. 1993; 48: 109-116
        • Ballantyne P.J.
        The social determinants of health: A contribution to the analysis of gender differences in health and illness.
        Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 1999; 27: 290-295
        • Barbour A.
        Research Report: Dyadic loneliness in marriage.
        Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama, & Sociometry. 1993; 46: 70-74
        • Basic Behavioral Science Task Force of the National Advisory Mental Health Council
        Basic behavioral science research for mental heath: Sociocultural and environmental processes.
        American Psychologist. 1996; 51: 722-731
        • Berg S.
        • Mellstrom D.
        • Persson G.
        • Svanborg A.
        Loneliness in the Swedish aged.
        Journal of Gerontology. 1981; 36: 342-349
        • Cacioppo J.T.
        • Hawkley L.C.
        • Crawford L.E.
        • Ernst J.M.
        • Burleson M.H.
        • Kowalewski R.B.
        • et al.
        Loneliness and health: Potential mechanisms.
        Psychosomatic Medicine. 2002; 64: 407-417
        • Cacioppo J.T.
        • Hughes M.E.
        • Waite L.J.
        • Hawkley L.C.
        • Thisted R.A.
        Loneliness as a specific risk factor for depressive symptoms: Cross-Sectional and longitudinal analyses.
        Psychology and Aging. 2006; 21: 140-151
        • Cohen-Mansfield J.
        • Parpura-Gill A.
        Loneliness in older persons: A theoretical model and empirical findings.
        International Psychogeriatrics. 2007; 19: 279-294
        • Donaldson J.M.
        • Watson R.
        Loneliness in elderly people: an important area for nursing research.
        Journal of Advanced Nursing. 1996; 24: 952-959
        • Dykstra P.A.
        • Van Tilburg T.G.
        • De Jong Gierveld J.
        Changes in adult loneliness.
        Research on Aging. 2005; 27: 725-747
        • Ekwall A.K.
        • Sivberg B.
        • Hallberg I.R.
        Loneliness as a predictor of quality of life among older caregivers.
        Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2006; 49: 23-32
        • Ellaway A.
        • Wood S.
        • Macintyre S.
        Someone to talk to? The role of loneliness as a factor in the frequency of GP consultations.
        British Journal of General Practice. 1999; 49: 363-367
        • Fry P.
        • Debats D.
        Loneliness and psychological distress in older adults.
        International Journal of Aging and Human Development. 2002; 55: 233-269
        • Hector-Taylor L.
        • Adams P.
        State versus trait loneliness in elderly New Zealanders.
        Psychology Reports. 1996; 78: 1329-1330
        • Holmen K.
        • Ericsson K.
        • Andersson L.
        • Winblad B.
        Loneliness among elderly people living in Stockholm: A population study.
        Journal of Advanced Nursing. 1992; 17: 43-51
        • Hughes M.E.
        • Waite L.J.
        • Hawkley L.C.
        • Cacioppo J.T.
        A short scale for measuring loneliness in large surveys.
        Research on Aging. 2004; 26: 655-672
        • Kim O.
        Predictors of loneliness in elderly Korean immigrant women living in the United States of America.
        Journal of Advanced Nursing. 1999; 29: 1082-1088
        • Larson R.
        • Zuzanek J.
        • Mannell R.
        Being alone versus being with people: Disengagement in the daily experience of older adults.
        Journal of Gerontology. 1985; 40: 375-381
        • Lauder W.
        • Sharkey S.
        • Mummery K.
        A community survey of loneliness.
        Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2004; 46: 88-94
        • Leslie H.N.
        • Beyea S.C.
        Using secondary data analysis for nursing research.
        AORN Journal. 1999;
        • Lynch J.J.
        • Covey W.H.
        Loneliness, disease and death: Alternative approaches.
        Psychosomatics. 1979; 20: 702-708
        • Mullins L.
        • Elston C.
        Social Determinants of loneliness among older Americans.
        Genetic, Social & General Psychology Monographs. 1996; 122: 455-654
        • Murray J.
        • Banerjee S.
        • Byng R.
        • Tylee A.
        • Bhugra D.
        • Macdonald A.
        Primary care professionals' perceptions of depression in older people: A qualitative study.
        Social Science & Medicine. 2006; 63: 1363-1373
        • National Institute on Aging
        The Health and Retirement Study.
        National Institute on Aging [On-line]. 2006; (Available:)
        • Nezlek J.
        • Richardson D.
        • Green L.
        • Schatten-Jones E.
        Psychological well-being and day-to-day social interaction among older adults.
        Personal Relationships. 2002; 9: 57-71
        • Paul C.
        • Ayiss S.
        • Ebrahim S.
        Psychological distress, loneliness, and disability in old age.
        Psychology, Health, & Medicine. 2006; 11: 221-232
        • Pinquart M.
        Loneliness in married, widowed, divorced, and never-married adults.
        Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 2003; 20: 31-53
        • Radloff L.S.
        The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population.
        Applied Psychological Measurement. 1977; 1: 385-401
        • Rokach A.
        The loneliness experience in a cultural context.
        Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 1996; 11: 827-840
        • Rokach A.
        Strategies of coping with loneliness throughout the lifespan.
        Current Psychology. 2000; 20: 3-18
        • Rokach A.
        • Orzeck T.
        • Neto F.
        Coping with loneliness in old age: A cross-cultural comparison.
        Current Psychology. 2004; 23: 124-137
        • Russell D.
        The measurement of loneliness.
        in: Peplau L. Perlman D. Loneliness: A Sourcebook of Current Theory, Research, and Therapy. 1st ed. John Wiley & Sons, New York1982: 81-104
        • Russell D.
        • Peplau L.A.
        • Ferguson M.L.
        Developing a measure of loneliness.
        Journal of Personality Assessment. 1978; 42: 290-294
        • Savikko N.
        • Routasalo P.
        • Tilvis R.S.
        • Strandbert T.E.
        • Pitkala K.H.
        Predictors and subjective causes of loneliness in an aged population.
        Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2005; 41: 223-233
        • Tabachnick B.G.
        • Fidell L.S.
        Multivariate Statistics.
        4th ed. Allyn & Bacon, Needham Heights, Massachusetts2001
        • Thauberger P.
        Use of chemical agents and avoidance of ontological confrontation of loneliness.
        Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1981; 52: 91-96
        • Tilburg T.
        • Gierveld J.
        • Leccini L.
        • Marsiglia D.
        Social Integration and Loneliness: A comparative study among older adults in the Netherlands and Tuscany, Italy.
        Journal of Social and Personal Relationship. 1998; 15: 740-745
        • Tomaka J.
        • Thompson S.
        • Palacios R.
        The relation of social isolation, loneliness, and social support to disease outcomes among the elderly.
        Journal of Aging and Health. 2006; 18: 359-384
        • Van Baarsen B.
        Lonely but not alone: Emotional isolation and social isolation as two distinct dimensions of loneliness in older people.
        Educational and Psychological Measurement. 2001; 61: 119-135
        • Victor C.
        • Scambler S.
        • Bowling A.
        • Bond J.
        The prevalence of, and risk factors for loneliness in later life: A survey of older people in Great Britain.
        Aging & Society. 2005; 25: 357-375
        • Walker D.
        • Beauchene R.E.
        The relationship of loneliness, social isolation, and physical health to dietary adequacy of independently living elderly.
        Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1991; 91: 300-304
        • White H.
        • McConnell E.
        • Clipp E.
        • Branch L.G.
        • Sloane R.
        • Pieper C.
        • et al.
        A randomized controlled trial of the psychosocial impact of providing internet training and access to older adults.
        Aging & Mental Health. 2002; 6: 213-221
        • Wilson R.
        • Krueger K.
        • Arnold S.
        • Schneider J.
        • Kelly J.
        • Barnes L.
        • et al.
        Loneliness and Risk of Alzheimer Disease.
        Archives of General Psychiatry. 2007; 64: 234-240
        • Wylie C.
        • Copeman J.
        • Kirk S.
        Health and social factors affecting the food choice and nutritional intake of elderly people with restricted mobility.
        Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 1999; 12: 375-380
        • Yarcheski A.
        • Mahon N.E.
        • Yarcheski T.J.
        • Cannella B.L.
        A meta-analysis of predictors of positive health practices.
        Journal of Nursing Scholarship. 2004; 36: 102-108
        • Yeh S.
        • Lo S.
        Living alone, social support, and feeling lonely among the elderly.
        Social Behavior and Personality. 2004; 32: 129-138