Trait empathy as a predictor of individual differences in perceived loneliness

Psychol Rep. 2012 Feb;110(1):3-15. doi: 10.2466/07.09.20.PR0.110.1.3-15.


Loneliness has been shown to be inversely correlated with empathy in younger adults. The present study extends previous research by investigating the association between empathy and loneliness across the adult lifespan and examining the role of relevant demographic and personality factors. 110 community-dwelling adults (18 to 81 years old) completed the UCLA Loneliness Scale and the Empathy Quotient. Empathy scores were inversely associated with rated loneliness and predicted 8.7% of variance in loneliness scores after accounting for sex, age, relationship status, education, and neuroticism. The Social Skills factor of the Empathy Quotient was the strongest predictor of the association between perceived empathy and loneliness. Previous research is extended by the finding that rated loneliness was inversely associated with empathy scores across the adult lifespan. Underlying this relationship may be negative perceptions of personal social proclivity as a function of difficulty in understanding the mental states of others and high trait neuroticism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology
  • Cognition
  • Educational Status
  • Emotions
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology
  • Personality*
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult