The extent to which loneliness is a unique risk factor for depressive symptoms was determined in 2 population-based studies of middle-aged to older adults, and the possible causal influences between loneliness and depressive symptoms were examined longitudinally in the 2nd study. In Study 1, a nationally representative sample of persons aged 54 and older completed a telephone interview as part of a study of health and aging. Higher levels of loneliness were associated with more depressive symptoms, net of the effects of age, gender, ethnicity, education, income, marital status, social support, and perceived stress. In Study 2, detailed measures of loneliness, social support, perceived stress, hostility, and demographic characteristics were collected over a 3-year period from a population-based sample of adults ages 50-67 years from Cook County, Illinois. Loneliness was again associated with more depressive symptoms, net of demographic covariates, marital status, social support, hostility, and perceived stress. Latent variable growth models revealed reciprocal influences over time between loneliness and depressive symptomatology. These data suggest that loneliness and depressive symptomatology can act in a synergistic effect to diminish well-being in middle-aged and older adults.
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