German population norms of the preference to solitude scale and its correlates

PLoS One. 2024 May 21;19(5):e0303853. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0303853. eCollection 2024.

Abstract

Aim: Our first aim was to present norm values for the Preference for Solitude Scale by sex, age, and other sociodemographic groups. Our second aim was to evaluate the correlates of preference for solitude.

Methods: Data were collected in August/September 2023 from a sample of individuals (N = 5000) living in Germany aged 18 to 74 years (ensuring representativeness in terms of sex, age group and federal state for the German general adult population). The established and valid Preference for Solitude Scale (range 0 to 12, with higher values reflecting a stronger preference for solitude) was used to quantify the preference for solitude. Norm values were provided by sex and age groups. Multiple linear regressions were used to examine the correlates of preference for solitude.

Results: Average preference for solitude score was 7.6 (SD = 3.0; 0 to 12). The average score was 7.3 (SD = 3.0) among males and 7.9 (SD = 2.9) among females. Regressions showed that a stronger preference for solitude was associated with being female (β = .51, p < .001), being older (e.g., being 40 to 49 years compared to 18 to 29 years, β = .85, p < .001), being single (e.g., divorced compared to being single, β = -.78, p < .01), higher level of education (secondary education compared to primary education, β = .43, p < .01), never been a smoker (e.g., daily smoker compared to never smokers, β = -.61, p < .001), absence of alcohol consumption (e.g., drinking once a week compared to never drinking, β = -1.09, p < .001), no sports activity (e.g., 2-4 hours per week compared to no sports activity, β = -.60, p < .001), poorer self-rated health (β = .28, p < .001) and more depressive symptoms (β = .05, p < .001). Sex-stratified regressions yielded similar results.

Conclusion: Norm values provided in this study can be used as a benchmark for comparison with other countries and can guide further research dealing with preferences for solitude. We demonstrated the importance of several sociodemographic factors (e.g., marital status), lifestyle-related factors (e.g., sports activity), and health-related factors (e.g., depressive symptoms) for the preference for solitude. Such knowledge about the correlates of preference for solitude may help to characterize them. This is essential to ensure a good balance between social interaction and being alone. This is important because preference for solitude is associated with poor self-rated health and depression, but also with healthy behaviors such as abstaining from smoking and drinking.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Norms*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

We acknowledge financial support from the Open Access Publication Fund of UKE - Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf.