Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Loneliness and Health

  • Louise C. HawkleyEmail author
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_812-3

Synonyms

Definition

Loneliness is a subjective experience of dissatisfaction with one’s social relationships that feels unpleasant or distressing. Loneliness is also termed “perceived social isolation” and, although correlated, is conceptually distinct from objective social isolation. Whereas objective isolation corresponds to being alone, perceived isolation corresponds to feeling alone. In the USA, as many as 80% of those under 18 years of age and 19–43% of adults over 65 years of age report being lonely at least sometimes. For as many as 15–30% of the general population, loneliness is a chronic state. Left untended, loneliness has serious consequences for physical and cognitive health and well-being.

Description

Loneliness and Physical Health and Mortality

Loneliness has been associated with a range of poor physical health outcomes as early as childhood. Lonelier children 6–12 years of age suffer from more somatic symptoms, poorer sleep quality, and poorer general...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Further Reading

  1. Beller, J., & Wagner, A. (2018). Loneliness, social isolation, their synergistic interaction, and mortality. Health Psychology, 37(9), 808–813.Google Scholar
  2. Boss, L., Kang, D. H., & Branson, S. (2015). Loneliness and cognitive function in the older adult: A systematic review. International Journal of Psychogeriatrics, 27, 541–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2014). Social relationships and health: The toxic effects of perceived social isolation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 8, 58–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cacioppo, J. T., & Hawkley, L. C. (2009). Perceived social isolation and cognition. Trends in Cognitive Science, 13, 447–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S., Capitanio, J. P., & Cole, S. W. (2015). The neuroendocrinology of social isolation. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 733–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Canli, T., Wen, R., Wang, X., Mikhailik, A., Yu, L., … & Bennett, D. A. (2017). Differential transcriptome expression in human nucleus accumbens as a function of loneliness. Molecular Psychiatry, 22, 1069–1078.Google Scholar
  7. Canli, T., Yu, L., Yu, X., Zhao, H., Fleischman, D., et al. (2018). Loneliness 5 years ante-mortem is associated with disease-related differential gene expression in postmortem dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Translational Psychiatry, 8.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-017-0086-2.
  8. Choi, H., Irwin, M. R., & Cho, H. J. (2015). Impact of social isolation on behavioral health in elderly: Systematic review. World Journal of Psychiatry, 5, 432–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cole, S. W. (2008). Social regulation of leukocyte homeostasis: The role of glucocorticoid sensitivity. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 22, 1049–1055.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Courtin, E., & Knapp, M. (2017). Social isolation, loneliness and health in old age: A scoping review. Health and Social Care in the Community, 25, 799–812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elovainio, M., Hakulinen, C., Pulkki-Råback, L., Virtanen, M., Josefsson, K. I., Jokela, M., Vahtera, J., & Kivimäki, J. (2017). Contribution of risk factors to excess mortality in isolated and lonely individuals: An analysis of data from the UK Biobank cohort study. The Lancet Public Health, 2, e260–e266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Giacco, D., Palumbo, C., Strappelli, N., Catapano, F., & Priebe, S. (2016). Social contacts and loneliness in people with psychotic and mood disorders. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 66, 59–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hakulinen, C., Pulkki-Råback, L., Virtanen, M., Jokela, M., & Kivimäki, M. (2018). Social isolation and loneliness as risk factors for myocardial infarcation, stroke and mortality: UK Biobank cohort study of 479 054 men and women. Heart.  https://doi.org/10.1136/heartjnl-2017-312663. Heart Online First.
  14. Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40, 218–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hawkley, L. C., & Capitanio, J. P. (2015). Perceived social isolation, evolutionary fitness and health outcomes: A lifespan approach. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 370, 20140114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: A meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 227–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Holwerda, T. J., Beekman, A. T. F., Deeg, D. J. H., Stek, M. L., van Tilburg, T. G., Visser, P. J., et al. (2012). Increased risk of mortality associated with social isolation in older men: Only when feeling lonely? Results from the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL). Psychological Medicine, 42(04), 843–853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kuiper, J. S., & Smidt, N. (2015). Social relationships and risk of dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal cohort studies. Ageing Research Reviews, 22, 39–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Masi, C. M., Chen, H.-Y., Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). A meta-analysis of interventions to reduce loneliness. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15, 219–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Matthews, T., Danese, A., Gregory, A. M., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., & Arseneault, L. (2017). Sleeping with one eye open: Loneliness and sleep quality in young adults. Psychological Medicine, 47, 2177–2186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pels, F., & Kleinert, J. (2016). Loneliness and physical activity: A systematic review. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 9, 231–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Petitte, T., Mallow, J., Barnes, E., Petrone, A., Barr, T., & Theeke, L. (2015). A systematic review of loneliness and common chronic physical conditions in adults. Open Psychology Journal, 8, 113–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rafnsson, S. B., Orrell, M., D’Orsi, E., Hogervorst, E., & Steptoe, A. (2017). Loneliness, social integration, and incident dementia over 6 years: Prospective findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.  https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbx087
  24. Richard, A., Rohrmann, S., Vandeleur, C. L., Schmid, M., Barth, J., & Eichholzer, M. (2017). Loneliness is adversely associated with physical and mental health and lifestyle factors: Results from a Swiss national survey. PLoS One, 12, e0181442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rico-Uribe, L., Caballero, F. F., Martín-María, N., Cabello, M., Ayuso-Mateos, J. L., & Miret, M. (2018). Association of loneliness with all-cause mortality: A meta-analysis. PLoS One, 13(1), e0190033.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0190033.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Schaakxs, R., Comijs, H. C., Van der Mast, R. C., Schoevers, R. A., Beekman, A. T. R., & Penninx, B. W. J. H. (2017). Risk factors for depression: Differential across age? The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 25, 966–977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Schutter, N., Holwerda, T. J., Stek, J. L., Dekker, J. J. M., Rhebergen, D., & Comijs, H. C. (2017). Loneliness in older adults is associated with diminished cortisol output. Journal of Psychosomatic Resarch, 95, 19–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Steptoe, A., Shankar, A., Demakakos, P., & Wardle, J. (2013). Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(15), 5797–5801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Valtorta, N. K., Kanaan, M., Gilbody, S., & Hanratty, B. (2018). Loneliness, social isolation and risk of cardiovascular disease in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 25, 1387.  https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487318792696. Epub ahead of print.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Yu, B., Steptoe, A., Niu, K., Ku, P. W., & Chen, L. J. (2018). Prospective associations of social isolation and loneliness with poor sleep quality in older adults. Quality of Life Research, 27, 683–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zhong, B.-L., Chen, S.-L., Tu, X., & Conwell, Y. (2016). Loneliness and cognitive function in older adults: Findings from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 72, 120–128.  https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbw037.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Academic Research CentersNORC at the University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Martica H. Hall
    • 1
  • Michele L. Okun
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.University of Colorado, Colorado SpringsColorado SpringsUSA