Mental health of elders in retirement communities: is loneliness a key factor?

Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 2012 Jun;26(3):214-24. doi: 10.1016/j.apnu.2011.09.007. Epub 2011 Dec 10.


Loneliness is often manifested by intense feelings of emptiness and abandonment and can lead to depression and suicide. The prevalence of loneliness in older adults is estimated to be 40%. This secondary analysis examined differences between elders reporting and elders not reporting loneliness and the effect of gender on resourcefulness and measures of physical and mental health within the context of L. C. Hawkley and J. T. Cacioppo's (2010) theoretical model of loneliness. A descriptive, comparative design was used to examine gender differences and associations among loneliness and indicators of physical and mental health. Results indicated that for overall health, and indicators of physical health (functional status and number chronic conditions), no significant differences were found between those who reported loneliness and those who reported no loneliness. There were significant differences, however, between lonely elders and nonlonely elders on indicators of mental health, including both anxiety and depressive symptoms. Differences between lonely elders and nonlonely elders on measures of resourcefulness approached significance. The findings from this study suggest that intervention programs designed to prevent or reduce loneliness in older adults may be beneficial for preserving their mental health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Aged / psychology*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Male
  • Mental Health* / statistics & numerical data
  • Retirement / psychology*
  • Retirement / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires