Transitions in Loneliness Among Older Adults: A 5-Year Follow-Up in the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project

Res Aging. 2018 Apr;40(4):365-387. doi: 10.1177/0164027517698965. Epub 2017 Mar 17.


A substantial portion of the older adult population suffers from frequent feelings of loneliness, but a large proportion remains relatively unscathed by loneliness. To date, research examining both protective and risk factors for loneliness has not included data from the United States. The present study used the first two waves of data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project to examine sociodemographic, structural, and functional factors thought to be associated with loneliness in older adults. Functional limitations and low family support were associated with an increase in loneliness frequency (as were more strained friendships) and with transitioning from nonlonely to lonely status. Better self-rated health, higher levels of socializing frequency, and lower family strain were associated with transitioning from lonely to nonlonely status. Interventions that target these factors may be effective in preventing and reducing loneliness and its effects on health and well-being in older adults.

Keywords: changes in loneliness; functional factors; longitudinal analysis; older adults; structural factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Loneliness*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Isolation*
  • Social Support*