Loneliness of Older Adults: Social Network and the Living Environment

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jan 31;16(3):406. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16030406.


The social participation and integration of older adults are important aspects of healthy aging. However, in general, older adults have smaller social networks than their younger counterparts due to changes in their life cycle stage, such as retirement or age-related losses, along with a declining health and increasing mobility limitations. Consequently, with increasing age, an increasing proportion of older people experience feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Previous studies that have analyzed the relationships between loneliness, social networks, and the living environment have often been based on bivariate relationships or included only a limited number of variables. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze multiple relationships in a more comprehensive framework. Data were collected using a survey among 182 adults aged 65 years and over in the Netherlands. A Bayesian belief network (BBN) modeling approach was used that derives all direct and indirect relationships between the variables. The results showed that feelings of loneliness are directly related to satisfaction with one's social network and neighborhood attachment and are indirectly related to perceived safety and satisfaction with local amenities and services. This knowledge is relevant to urban planners and policy makers who focus on creating livable and healthy social neighborhoods for the aging population.

Keywords: Bayesian belief network (BBN); aging; loneliness; neighborhood; social network; social participation.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Healthy Aging
  • Humans
  • Loneliness*
  • Male
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Netherlands
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Networking*
  • Social Perception
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires