We present evidence from a 5-year longitudinal study for the prospective associations between loneliness and depressive symptoms in a population-based, ethnically diverse sample of 229 men and women who were 50-68 years old at study onset. Cross-lagged panel models were used in which the criterion variables were loneliness and depressive symptoms, considered simultaneously. We used variations on this model to evaluate the possible effects of gender, ethnicity, education, physical functioning, medications, social network size, neuroticism, stressful life events, perceived stress, and social support on the observed associations between loneliness and depressive symptoms. Cross-lagged analyses indicated that loneliness predicted subsequent changes in depressive symptomatology, but not vice versa, and that this temporal association was not attributable to demographic variables, objective social isolation, dispositional negativity, stress, or social support. The importance of distinguishing between loneliness and depressive symptoms and the implications for loneliness and depressive symptomatology in older adults are discussed.
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