Loneliness and alcohol abuse: a review of evidences of an interplay

Soc Sci Med. 1992 Feb;34(4):405-14. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(92)90300-f.


This report contains a review of the literature about the interplay between loneliness and the abuse of alcohol. A theoretical discussion based on clinical observations can be dated back to the 1950's. Systematic empirical studies, however, appear sparsely and have mainly been performed during the last decade. Thus, knowledge is still incomplete, but the review indicates that loneliness may be significant at all stages in the course of alcoholism: as a contributing and maintaining factor in the growth of abuse and as an encumbrance in attempts to give it up. Concordant reports demonstrate that alcoholics do feel more lonely than members of most other groups do. In advanced abusers, loneliness is obviously connected with a number of negative characteristics and, together with several of those, directly linked to a poor prognosis. There are, however, no obvious relations to the external social situation (i.e. network) or amount of drinking. Instead, the feeling of loneliness appears to be more connected with a general negative perception about oneself and one's relations to other people and also with a general dissatisfaction with most things in life. The lonely abuser seems likewise resigned and unable to bring himself to change his/her situation. There are also associations with a broad array of psychopathology. In comparison to people with other health problems, the supportive value of the social network of alcoholics appears to be more wavering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / etiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Loneliness*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Prognosis
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support