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Disentangling Loneliness: Differential Effects of Subjective Loneliness, Network Quality, Network Size, and Living Alone on Physical, Mental, and Cognitive Health
Abstract and Figures
Objective: To examine whether different measures of social disconnectedness-subjective loneliness, network quality, network size, living alone-have differential effects on the health of older adults. Methods: We used a longitudinal sample of the German Aging Survey ( N = 4,184) and analyzed seven measures of health (life satisfaction, positive affect, negative affect, depression, cognitive performance, physical functioning, and pulmonary function) via regression analyses. Results: We found that subjective loneliness and network quality best predicted mental health; contrarily, network size and living alone best predicted physical and cognitive health. Discussion: Different measures of social disconnectedness have differential effects on health. Therefore, using only global measures or one aspect of social disconnectedness might obfuscate potential health hazards. Researchers and practitioners should be mindful of differences between these measures and should include multiple aspects of social disconnectedness in their research and practice. Future studies should explore the causes why these measures and their effects differ.
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