Loneliness among older veterans in the United States: results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 Jun;22(6):564-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2013.02.013. Epub 2013 Jun 25.


Objectives: This study examined the current prevalence, and demographic, military, health, and psychosocial correlates of loneliness in a contemporary nationally representative sample of older U.S. veterans.

Methods: Two thousand twenty-five veterans aged 60 years and older participated in the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. Loneliness was assessed using a questionnaire adapted from the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale. A broad range of demographic, military, health, and psychosocial variables was also assessed.

Results: 44% of veterans reported feeling lonely at least some of the time (10.4% reported often feeling lonely). Greater age, disability in activities of daily living, lifetime traumas, perceived stress, and current depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms were positively associated with loneliness, and being married/cohabitating, higher income, greater subjective cognitive functioning, social support, secure attachment, dispositional gratitude, and frequency of attending religious services were negatively associated with loneliness. The largest magnitude associations were observed for perceived social support, secure attachment style, and depressive symptoms.

Conclusions: Loneliness is prevalent among older veterans in the United States, and associated with several health and psychosocial variables. These results suggest that multifactorial interventions that emphasize bolstering of social support and reduction of depressive symptoms may help mitigate loneliness in the rapidly growing population of older veterans.

Keywords: Loneliness; PTSD; correlates; old age; trauma; veterans; war.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness* / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data