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Alone in the Crowd: The Structure and Spread of Loneliness in a Large Social Network

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Abstract

The discrepancy between an individual's loneliness and the number of connections in a social network is well documented, yet little is known about the placement of loneliness within, or the spread of loneliness through, social networks. The authors use network linkage data from the population-based Framingham Heart Study to trace the topography of loneliness in people's social networks and the path through which loneliness spreads through these networks. Results indicated that loneliness occurs in clusters, extends up to 3 degrees of separation, is disproportionately represented at the periphery of social networks, and spreads through a contagious process. The spread of loneliness was found to be stronger than the spread of perceived social connections, stronger for friends than family members, and stronger for women than for men. The results advance understanding of the broad social forces that drive loneliness and suggest that efforts to reduce loneliness in society may benefit by aggressively targeting the people in the periphery to help repair their social networks and to create a protective barrier against loneliness that can keep the whole network from unraveling.
INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS AND GROUP PROCESSES
Alone in the Crowd: The Structure and Spread of Loneliness in a
Large Social Network
John T. Cacioppo
University of Chicago
James H. Fowler
University of California, San Diego
Nicholas A. Christakis
Harvard University
The discrepancy between an individual’s loneliness and the number of connections in a social network
is well documented, yet little is known about the placement of loneliness within, or the spread of
loneliness through, social networks. The authors use network linkage data from the population-based
Framingham Heart Study to trace the topography of loneliness in people’s social networks and the path
through which loneliness spreads through these networks. Results indicated that loneliness occurs in
clusters, extends up to 3 degrees of separation, is disproportionately represented at the periphery of social
networks, and spreads through a contagious process. The spread of loneliness was found to be stronger
than the spread of perceived social connections, stronger for friends than family members, and stronger
for women than for men. The results advance understanding of the broad social forces that drive
loneliness and suggest that efforts to reduce loneliness in society may benefit by aggressively targeting
the people in the periphery to help repair their social networks and to create a protective barrier against
loneliness that can keep the whole network from unraveling.
Keywords: loneliness, social network, social isolation, contagion, longitudinal study
Human social isolation is recognized as a problem of vast importance.
(Harlow, Dodsworth, & Harlow, 1965, p. 90)
Social species do not fare well when forced to live solitary lives.
Social isolation decreases the lifespan of the fruit fly, Drosophilia
melanogaster (Ruan & Wu, 2008); promotes the development of
obesity and Type 2 diabetes in mice (Nonogaki, Nozue, & Oka,
2007); delays the positive effects of running on adult neurogenesis
in rats (Stranahan, Khalil, & Gould, 2006); increases the activation
of the sympatho-adrenomedullary response to an acute immobili-
zation or cold stressor in rats (Dronjak, Gavrilovic, Filipovic, &
Radojcic, 2004); decreases the expression of genes regulating
glucocorticoid response in the frontal cortex of piglets (Poletto,
Steibel, Siegford, & Zanella, 2006); decreases open field activity,
increases basal cortisol concentrations, and decreases lymphocyte
proliferation to mitogens in pigs (Kanitz, Tuchscherer, Puppe,
Tuchscherer, & Stabenow, 2004); increases the 24-hr urinary
catecholamines levels and evidence of oxidative stress in the aortic
arch of the Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic rabbit (Nation et al.,
2008); increases the morning rises in cortisol in squirrel monkeys
(Lyons, Ha, & Levine, 1995); and profoundly disrupts psychosex-
ual development in rhesus monkeys (Harlow et al., 1965).
Humans, born to the longest period of abject dependency of any
species and dependent on conspecifics across the lifespan to sur-
vive and prosper, do not fare well, either, whether they are living
solitary lives or whether they simply perceive that they live in
isolation. The average person spends about 80% of waking hours
in the company of others, and the time with others is preferred to
the time spent alone (Emler, 1994; Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade,
Schwarz, & Stone, 2004). Social isolation, in contrast, is associ-
ated not only with lower subjective well-being (Berscheid, 1985;
Burt, 1986; Myers & Diener, 1995) but also with broad-based
morbidity and mortality (House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988).
Humans are an irrepressibly meaning-making species, and a
large literature has developed showing that perceived social iso-
lation (i.e., loneliness) in normal samples is a more important
predictor of a variety of adverse health outcomes than is objective
social isolation (e.g., (Cole et al., 2007; Hawkley, Masi, Berry, &
Cacioppo, 2006; Penninx et al., 1997; Seeman, 2000; Sugisawa,
Liang, & Liu, 1994). In an illustrative study, Caspi, Harrington,
Moffitt, Milne, & Poulton (2006) found that loneliness in adoles-
cence and young adulthood predicted how many cardiovascular
John T. Cacioppo, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago;
James H. Fowler, Department of Political Science, University of California,
San Diego; Nicholas A. Christakis, Department of Health Care Policy, Har-
vard Medical School and Department of Sociology, Harvard University.
The research was supported by National Institute on Aging Grants
R01AG034052-01 (to John T. Cacioppo), P01AG031093, and R01AG24448
(to Nicholas A. Christakis).
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to John T.
Cacioppo, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL,
60637. E-mail: Cacioppo@uchicago.edu
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2009, Vol. 97, No. 6, 977–991
© 2009 American Psychological Association 0022-3514/09/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0016076
977
risk factors (e.g., body mass index, waist circumference, blood
pressure, cholesterol) were elevated in young adulthood and that
the number of developmental occasions (i.e., childhood, adoles-
cence, young adulthood) at which participants were lonely pre-
dicted the number of elevated risk factors in young adulthood.
Loneliness has also been associated with the progression of
Alzheimer’s disease (Wilson et al., 2007), obesity (Lauder, Mum-
mery, Jones, & Caperchione, 2006), increased vascular resistance
(Cacioppo, Hawkley, Crawford, et al., 2002), elevated blood pres-
sure (Cacioppo, Hawkley, Crawford, et al., 2002; Hawkley et al.,
2006), increased hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical activity
(Adam, Hawkley, Kudielka, & Cacioppo, 2006; Steptoe, Owen,
Kunz-Ebrecht, & Brydon, 2004), less salubrious sleep (Cacioppo,
Hawkley, Berntson, et al., 2002; Pressman et al., 2005), dimin-
ished immunity (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 1984; Pressman et al.,
2005), reduction in independent living (Russell, Cutrona, de la
Mora, & Wallace, 1997; Tilvis, Pitkala, Jolkkonen, & Strandberg,
2000), alcoholism (Akerlind & Hornquist, 1992), depressive
symptomatology (Cacioppo et al., 2006; Heikkinen & Kauppinen,
2004), suicidal ideation and behavior (Rudatsikira, Muula, Siziya,
& Twa-Twa, 2007), and mortality in older adults (Penninx et al.,
1997; Seeman, 2000). Loneliness has even been associated with
gene expression: specifically, the under-expression of genes bear-
ing anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid response elements and over-
expression of genes bearing response elements for proinflamma-
tory NF-B/Rel transcription factors (Cole et al., 2007).
Adoption and twin studies indicate that loneliness has a sizable
heritable component in children (Bartels, Cacioppo, Hudziak,
& Boomsma, 2008; McGuire & Clifford, 2000) and in adults
(Boomsma, Cacioppo, Muthen, Asparouhov, & Clark, 2007;
Boomsma, Cacioppo, Slagboom, & Posthuma, 2006; Boomsma,
Willemsen, Dolan, Hawkley, & Cacioppo, 2005). Social factors
have a substantial impact on loneliness, as well, however. For
instance, freshmen who leave family and friends behind often feel
increased social isolation when they arrive at college, even though
they are surrounded by large numbers of other young adults (e.g.,
Cutrona, 1982; Russell, Peplau, & Cutrona, 1980). Lower levels of
loneliness are associated with marriage (Hawkley, Browne, &
Cacioppo, 2005; Pinquart & Sorenson, 2003), higher education
(Savikko, Routasalo, Tilvis, Strandberg, & Pitkala, 2005), and
higher income (Andersson, 1998; Savikko et al., 2005), whereas
higher levels of loneliness are associated with living alone
(Routasalo, Savikko, Tilvis, Strandberg, & Pitkala, 2006), infre-
quent contact with friends and family (Bondevik & Skogstad,
1998; Hawkley et al., 2005; Mullins & Dugan, 1990), dissatisfac-
tion with living circumstances (Hector-Taylor & Adams, 1996),
physical health symptoms, chronic work and/or social stress
(Hawkley et al., 2008), small social network (Hawkley et al., 2005;
Mullins & Dugan, 1990), lack of a spousal confidant (Hawkley et
al., 2008), marital or family conflict (Jones, 1992; Segrin, 1999),
poor quality social relationships (Hawkley et al., 2008; Mullins &
Dugan, 1990; Routasalo et al., 2006), and divorce and widowhood
(Dugan & Kivett, 1994; Dykstra & de Jong Gierveld, 1999;
Holmen, Ericsson, Andersson, & Winblad, 1992; Samuelsson,
Andersson, & Hagberg, 1998).
The discrepancy between an individual’s subjective report of
loneliness and the reported or observed number of connections in
their social network is well documented (e.g., see Berscheid &
Reis, 1998), but few details are known about the placement of
loneliness within or the spread of loneliness through a social
network. The association between the loneliness of individuals
connected to each other, and their clustering within the network,
could be attributed to at least three social psychological processes.
First, the induction hypothesis posits that the loneliness in one
person contributes to or causes the loneliness in others. The emo-
tional, cognitive, and behavioral consequences of loneliness may
contribute to the induction of loneliness. For instance, emotional
contagion refers to the tendency for the facial expressions, vocaliza-
tions, postures, and movements of interacting individuals to lead to a
convergence of their emotions (Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1994).
When people feel lonely, they tend to be shyer, more anxious, more
hostile, more socially awkward, and lower in self-esteem (e.g., Ber-
scheid & Reis, 1998; Cacioppo et al., 2006). Emotional contagion
could therefore contribute to the spread of loneliness to those with
whom they interact. Cognitively, loneliness can affect and be affected
by what one perceives and desires in their social relationships (Peplau
& Perlman, 1982; Rook, 1984; Wheeler, Reis, & Nezlek, 1983). To
the extent that interactions with others in an individual’s social net-
work influence a person’s ideal or perceived interpersonal relation-
ship, that person’s loneliness should be influenced. Behaviorally,
when people feel lonely, they tend to act toward others in a less
trusting and more hostile fashion (e.g., Rotenberg, 1994; cf. Berscheid
& Reis, 1998; Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008). These behaviors, in turn,
may lower the satisfaction of others with the relationship or lead to a
weakening or loss of the relationship and a consequent induction of
loneliness in others.
Second, the homophily hypothesis posits that lonely or non-
lonely individuals choose one another as friends and become
connected (i.e., the tendency of like to attract like; McPherson,
Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001). Byrne’s (1971) law of attraction
specifies that there is a direct linear relationship between interper-
sonal attraction and the proportion of similar attitudes. The asso-
ciation between similarity and attraction is not limited to attitudes,
and the characteristics on which similarity operates move from
obvious characteristics (e.g., physical attractiveness) to less obvi-
ous ones (social perceptions) as relationships develop and deepen
(e.g., Neimeyer & Mitchell, 1988). Although feelings of loneliness
can be transient, stable individual differences in loneliness may
have sufficiently broad effects on social cognition, emotion, and
behavior to produce similarity-based social sorting.
Finally, the shared environment hypothesis posits that con-
nected individuals jointly experience contemporaneous exposures
that contribute to loneliness. Loneliness, for instance, tends to be
elevated in matriculating students, because for many, their arrival
at college is associated with a rupture of normal ties with their
family and friends (Cutrona, 1982). People who interact within a
social network may also be more likely to be exposed to the same
social challenges and upheavals (e.g., coresidence in a dangerous
neighborhood, job loss, retirement).
To distinguish among these hypotheses requires repeated mea-
sures of loneliness, longitudinal information about network ties,
and information about the nature or direction of the ties (e.g., who
nominated whom as a friend; Carrington, Scott, & Wasserman,
2005; Fowler & Christakis, 2008b). With the recent application of
innovative research methods to network linkage data from the
population-based Framingham Heart Study (FHS), these data are
now available and have been used to trace the distinctive paths
through which obesity (Christakis & Fowler, 2007), smoking
978 CACIOPPO, FOWLER, AND CHRISTAKIS
(Christakis & Fowler, 2008), and happiness (Fowler & Christakis,
2008a) spread through people’s social networks. We sought here to
use these methods and data to determine the role of social network
processes in loneliness, with an emphasis on determining the topog-
raphy of loneliness in people’s social networks, the interdependence
of subjective experiences of loneliness and the observed position in
social networks, the path through which loneliness spreads through
these networks, and factors that modulate its spread.
Method
Assembling the FHS Social Network Dataset
The FHS is a population-based, longitudinal, observational co-
hort study that was initiated in 1948 to prospectively investigate
risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Since then, it has come to
be composed of four separate but related cohort populations: (1)
the “Original Cohort,” enrolled in 1948 (n5,209); (2) the
“Offspring Cohort” (the children of the Original Cohort and
spouses of the children), enrolled in 1971 (n5,124); (3) the
“Omni Cohort,” enrolled in 1994 (n508); and (4) the “Gener-
ation 3 Cohort” (the grandchildren of the Original Cohort), en-
rolled beginning in 2002 (n4,095). The Original Cohort actually
captured the majority of the adult residents of Framingham in
1948, and there was little refusal to participate. The Offspring
Cohort included offspring of the Original Cohort and their spouses
in 1971. The supplementary, multiethnic Omni Cohort was initi-
ated to reflect the increased diversity in Framingham since the
inception of the Original Cohort. For the Generation 3 Cohort,
Offspring Cohort participants were asked to identify all their
children and the children’s spouses, and 4,095 participants were
enrolled beginning in 2002. Published reports provide details about
sample composition and study design for all these cohorts
(Cupples & D’Agnostino, 1988; Kannel, Feinleib, McNamara,
Garrison, & Castelli, 1979; Quan et al., 1997).
Continuous surveillance and serial examinations of these co-
horts provide longitudinal data. All of the participants are person-
ally examined by FHS physicians and nurses (or, for the small
minority for whom this is not possible, evaluated by telephone)
and watched continuously for outcomes. The Offspring study has
collected information on health events and risk factors roughly
every 4 years. The Original Cohort has data available for roughly
every 2 years. It is important to note that even participants who
migrate out of the town of Framingham (to points throughout the
United States) remain in the study and, remarkably, come back
every few years to be examined and to complete survey forms; that
is, there is no necessary loss to follow-up because of out-migration
in this dataset, and very little loss to follow-up for any reason (e.g.,
only 10 cases out of 5,124 in the Offspring Cohort have been lost).
For the purposes of the analyses reported here, exam waves for
the Original Cohort were aligned with those of the Offspring
Cohort, so that all participants in the social network were treated
as having been examined at just seven waves (in the same time
windows as the Offspring, as noted in Table 1).
The Offspring Cohort is the key cohort of interest here, and it is
our source of the focal participants (FPs) in our network. How-
ever, individuals to whom these FPs are linked—in any of the four
cohorts—are also included in the network. These linked individ-
uals are termed linked participants (LPs). That is, whereas FPs
come only from the Offspring Cohort, LPs are drawn from the
entire set of FHS cohorts (including also the Offspring Cohort
itself). Hence, the total number of individuals in the FHS social
network is 12,067, because LPs identified in the Original, Generation
3, and Omni Cohorts are also included, as long as they were alive in
1971 or later. Spouses who list a different address of residence than
the FP are termed noncoresident spouses. There were 311 FPs with
noncoresident spouses in Exam 6 and 299 in Exam 7.
The physical, laboratory, and survey examinations of the FHS
participants provide a wide array of data. At each evaluation, partic-
ipants complete a battery of questionnaires (e.g., the Center for
Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale [CES–D; Radloff, 1977]
measure of depression and loneliness, as described below), a
physician-administered medical history (including review of symp-
toms and hospitalizations), a physical examination administered by
physicians on site at the FHS facility, and a large variety of lab tests.
To ascertain the network ties, we computerized information
from archived, handwritten documents that had not previously
been used for research purposes, namely, the administrative track-
ing sheets used by the FHS since 1971 by personnel responsible
for calling participants to arrange their periodic examinations.
These sheets record the answers when all 5,124 of the FPs were
asked to comprehensively identify relatives, friends, neighbors
(based on address), coworkers (based on place of employment),
and relatives who might be in a position to know where the FPs
would be in 2 to 4 years. The key fact here that makes these
administrative records so valuable for social network research is
that, given the compact nature of the Framingham population in
the period from 1971 to 2007, many of the nominated contacts
were themselves also participants of one or another FHS cohort.
We have used these tracking sheets to develop network links for
FHS Offspring participants to other participants in any of the four
FHS cohorts. Thus, for example, it is possible to know which
participants have a relationship (e.g., spouse, sibling, friend, co-
worker, neighbor) with other participants. Of note, each link be-
tween two people might be identified by either party identifying
the other; this observation is most relevant to the “friend” link, as
we can make this link either when A nominates B as a friend, or
when B nominates A (and, as discussed below, this directionality
is methodologically important and might also be substantively
interesting). People in any of the FHS cohorts may marry or
befriend or live next to each other. Finally, given the high quality
of addresses in the FHS data, the compact nature of Framingham,
the wealth of information available about each participant’s resi-
Table 1
Survey Waves and Sample Sizes of the Framingham Offspring
Cohort (Network Focal Participants)
Survey wave/
physical exam
Time
period
No.
alive
No. alive
and 18
No.
examined
% of adults
participating
Exam 1 1971–1975 5,124 4,914 5,124 100.0
Exam 2 1979–1982 5,053 5,037 3,863 76.7
Exam 3 1984–1987 4,974 4,973 3,873 77.9
Exam 4 1987–1990 4,903 4,903 4,019 82.0
Exam 5 1991–1995 4,793 4,793 3,799 79.3
Exam 6 1996–1998 4,630 4,630 3,532 76.3
Exam 7 1998–2001 4,486 4,486 3,539 78.9
979
STRUCTURE AND SPREAD OF LONELINESS
dential history, and new mapping technologies, we determined
who is whose neighbor, and we computed distances between
individuals (Fitzpatrick & Modlin, 1986).
The measure of loneliness was derived from the CES–D adminis-
tered between 1983 and 2001 at times corresponding to the fifth, sixth,
and seventh examinations of the Offspring Cohort. The median year
of examination for these individuals was 1986 for Exam 5, 1996 for
Exam 6, and 2000 for Exam 7. Participants are asked how often
during the previous week they experienced a particular feeling, with
four possible answers: 0 –1 days, 1–2 days, 3– 4 days, and 5–7 days.
To convert these categories to days, we recoded these responses at the
center of each range (0.5, 1.5, 3.5, and 6). Factor analyses of the items
from the CES–D and the University of California, Los Angeles
loneliness scales indicate that they represent two separate factors, and
the “I felt lonely” item from the CES–D scale loads on a separate
factor from the depression items (Cacioppo et al., 2006). The face-
valid nature of the item also supported the use of the “How often I felt
lonely” item to gauge loneliness.
Table 2 shows summary statistics for loneliness, network vari-
ables, and control variables we use to study the statistical relation-
ship between feeling lonely and being alone.
Statistical Information and Sensitivity Analyses
To distinguish among the induction, homophily, and shared
environment hypotheses requires repeated measures of loneliness,
longitudinal information about network ties, and information about
the nature or direction of the ties (e.g., who nominated whom as a
friend; Carrington et al., 2005; Fowler & Christakis, 2008b). For
the analyses in Table 3, we averaged across waves to determine the
mean number of social contacts for people in each of the four
loneliness categories. For the analyses in Tables 4 and 5, we
considered the prospective effect of LPs, social network variables,
and other control variables on FP’s future loneliness. For the
analyses in Tables 6 –12, we conducted regressions of FP loneli-
ness as a function of FP’s age, gender, education, and loneliness in
the prior exam and of the gender and loneliness of an LP in the
current and prior exam. The lagged observations for Wave 7 are
from Wave 6 and the lagged observations for Wave 6 are from
Wave 5. Inclusion of FP loneliness at the prior exam eliminates
serial correlation in the errors and also substantially controls for
FP’s genetic endowment and any intrinsic, stable tendency to be
lonely. LP’s loneliness at the prior exam helps control for homoph-
ily (Carrington et al., 2005), which has been verified in Monte
Carlo simulations (Fowler & Christakis, 2008b).
The key coefficient in these models that measures the effect of
induction is on the variable for LP contemporaneous loneliness.
We used generalized estimating equation (GEE) procedures to
account for multiple observations of the same FP across waves and
across FP–LP pairings (Liang & Zeger, 1986). We assumed an
independent working correlation structure for the clusters (Schild-
crout & Heagerty, 2005). These analyses underlie the results
presented in Figure 4.
The GEE regression models in the tables provide parameter esti-
mates that are approximately interpretable as effect sizes, indicating
the number of extra days of loneliness per week the FP experiences
given a one-unit increase in the independent variable. Mean effect
sizes and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated by simulat-
ing the first difference in LP contemporaneous loneliness (changing
from 0.5 days feeling lonely to 1.5 days) using 1,000 randomly drawn
sets of estimates from the coefficient covariance matrix and assuming
all other variables are held at their means (King, Tomz, & Wittenberg,
2000). We also checked all results using an ordered logit specifica-
tion, and none of these models changed the significance of any
reported result; we therefore decided to present the simpler and more
easily interpretable linear specifications.
The regression coefficients have mostly the expected effects,
such that, for example, FP’s prior loneliness is the strongest
predictor for current loneliness. The models in the tables include
exam fixed effects, which, combined with age at baseline, account
for the aging of the population. The sample size is shown for each
model, reflecting the total number of all such ties, with multiple
observations for each tie if it was observed in more than one exam,
and allowing for the possibility that a given person can have
multiple ties. As previously indicated, repeated observations were
handled with GEE procedures.
We evaluated the possibility of omitted variables or contempo-
raneous events explaining the associations by examining how the
type or direction of the social relationship between FP and LP
affects the association between FP and LP. If unobserved factors
drive the association between FP and LP friendship, then direc-
tionality of friendship should not be relevant. Loneliness in the FP
and the LP move up and down together in response to the unob-
served factors. In contrast, if an FP names an LP as a friend but the
LP does not reciprocate, then a causal relationship indicates that
the LP significantly affects the FP, but the FP does not necessarily
affect the LP.
1
The Kamada-Kawai algorithm used to prepare the
1
We explored the sensitivity of our results to model specification by
conducting numerous other analyses, each of which had various strengths
and limitations, but none of which yielded substantially different results
than those presented here. For example, we experimented with different
error specifications. Although we identified only a single close friend for
most of the FPs, we studied how multiple observations on some FPs
affected the standard errors of our models. Huber-White sandwich esti-
mates with clustering on the FPs yielded very similar results. We also
tested for the presence of serial correlation in the GEE models using a
Lagrange multiplier test and found none remaining after including the
lagged dependent variable (Beck, 2001).
Table 2
Summary Statistics for the Framingham Offspring Cohort
(Network Focal Participants)
Variable MSDMin Max
Current no. of days per week
feeling lonely 0.853 0.964 0.5 6
Prior wave no. of days per week
feeling lonely 0.940 1.086 0.5 6
Current no. of family members 2.819 3.071 0 23
Prior wave no. of family
members 3.035 3.255 0 26
Current no. of close friends 0.897 0.894 0 6
Prior wave no. of close friends 0.951 0.911 0 6
Female 0.549 0.498 0 1
Years of education 13.573 2.409 2 17
Age (years) 63.787 11.848 29.667 101.278
Note. Min minimum; Max maximum.
980 CACIOPPO, FOWLER, AND CHRISTAKIS
images in Figure 1 generates a matrix of shortest network path
distances from each node to all other nodes in the network and
repositions nodes so as to reduce the sum of the difference between
the plotted distances and the network distances (Kamada & Kawai,
1989). The fundamental pattern of ties in a social network (known
as the “topology”) is fixed, but how this pattern is visually ren-
dered depends on the analyst’s objectives.
Results
In Figure 1, we show a portion of the social network, which
demonstrates a clustering of moderately lonely (green nodes) and
very lonely (blue nodes) people, especially at the periphery of the
network. In the statistical models, the relationships between lone-
liness and number of social contacts proved to be negative and
monotonic, as illustrated in Figure 1 and documented in Table 3.
To determine whether the clustering of lonely people shown in
Figure 1 could be explained by chance, we implemented the
following permutation test: We compared the observed network
with 1,000 randomly generated networks in which we preserved
the network topology and the overall prevalence of loneliness but
in which we randomly shuffled the assignment of the loneliness
value to each node (Szabo & Barabasi, 2007). For this test, we
dichotomized loneliness to be zero if the respondent said they were
lonely 0 –1 days the previous week, and one otherwise. If cluster-
ing in the social network is occurring, then the probability that an
LP is lonely, given that an FP is lonely, should be higher in the
observed network than in the random networks. This procedure
also allows us to generate confidence intervals and measure how
far, in terms of social distance, the correlation in loneliness be-
Figure 1. Loneliness clusters in the Framingham Social Network. This graph shows the largest component of
friends, spouses, and siblings at Exam 7 (centered on the year 2000). There are 1,019 individuals shown. Each
node represents a participant, and its shape denotes gender (circles are female, squares are male). Lines between
nodes indicate relationship (red for siblings, black for friends and spouses). Node color denotes the mean number
of days the focal participant and all directly connected (Distance 1) linked participants felt lonely in the past
week, with yellow being 0 –1 days, green being 2 days, and blue being greater than 3 days or more. The graph
suggests clustering in loneliness and a relationship between being peripheral and feeling lonely, both of which
are confirmed by statistical models discussed in the main text.
Table 3
Mean Total Number of Social Contacts for People in Each of
the Four Loneliness Categories
Variable
Mno. of social contacts
(friends and family combined) SE
Felt lonely 0–1 days last week 4.03 0.05
Felt lonely 1–2 days last week 3.88 0.11
Felt lonely 3–4 days last week 3.76 0.21
Felt lonely 5–7 days last week 3.42 0.28
981
STRUCTURE AND SPREAD OF LONELINESS
tween FP and LP reaches. As described below and illustrated in
Figure 2, we found a significant relationship between FP and LP
loneliness, and this relationship extends up to three degrees of
separation. In other words, a person’s loneliness depends not just
on his friend’s loneliness but also extends to his friend’s friend and
his friend’s friend’s friend. The full network shows that partici-
pants are 52% (95% CI 40% to 65%) more likely to be lonely
if a person to whom they are directly connected (at one degree of
separation) is lonely. The size of the effect for people at two
degrees of separation (e.g., the friend of a friend) is 25% (95%
CI 14% to 36%), and for people at three degrees of separation
(e.g., the friend of a friend of a friend), it is 15% (95% CI 6%
to 26%). At four degrees of separation, the effect disappears (2%;
95% CI ⫽⫺5% to 10%), in keeping with the “three degrees of
influence” rule of social network contagion that has been exhibited
for obesity, smoking, and happiness (e.g., Christakis & Fowler,
2007, 2008; Fowler & Christakis, 2008a).
The first model in Table 4, depicted in the first three columns,
shows that (a) loneliness in the prior wave predicts loneliness in
the current wave, and (b) current feelings of loneliness are much
more closely tied to our networks of optional social connections,
measured at the prior wave, than to those that are handed to us
upon birth or to demographic features of the individuals. People
with more friends are less likely to experience loneliness in the
future, and each extra friend appears to reduce the frequency of
feeling lonely by 0.04 days per week. That may not seem like
much, but there are 52 weeks in a year, so this is equivalent to
about 2 extra days of loneliness per year; because, on average (in
our data) people feel lonely 48 days per year, having a couple of
extra friends decreases loneliness by about 10% for the average
person. The same model shows that the number of family members
has no effect at all.
Analyses also showed that loneliness shapes social networks.
Model 2 in Table 4, depicted in the middle three columns, shows
that people who feel lonely at an assessment are less likely to have
friends by the next assessment. In fact, compared with people who
are never lonely, they lose about 8% of their friends on average by
the time they take their next exam in roughly 4 years. For com-
parison, and not surprisingly, the results depicted in the third
model in Table 4 (last three columns) show that loneliness has no
effect on the future number of family members a person has. These
results are symmetric to both incoming and outgoing ties (not
shown; available on request). Lonely people tend to receive fewer
friendship nominations, but they also tend to name fewer people as
friends. What this means is that loneliness is both a cause and a
consequence of becoming disconnected. These results suggest that
our emotions and networks reinforce each other and create a
rich-gets-richer cycle that benefits those with the most friends.
People with few friends are more likely to become lonelier over
time, which then makes it less likely that they will attract or try to
form new social ties.
We also find that social connections and the loneliness of the
people to whom these connections are directed interact to affect
how people feel. Figure 3 shows the smoothed bivariate relation-
ship between the fraction of a person’s friends and family who are
lonely at one exam and the number of days per week that person
feels lonely at the following exam. The relationship is significant
and adds an extra quarter day of loneliness per week to the average
person who is surrounded by other lonely people, compared with
those who are not connected to anyone who is lonely. In Table 5,
we present a statistical model of the effect of lonely and nonlonely
LPs on future FP loneliness that includes controls for age, educa-
tion, and gender. This model shows that each additional lonely LP
significantly increases the number of days a FP feels lonely at the
next exam ( p.001). Conversely, each additional nonlonely LP
significantly reduces the number of days a participant feels lonely
at the next exam ( p.002). But these effects are asymmetric:
Lonely LPs are about two and a half times more influential than
nonlonely LPs, and the difference in these effect sizes is itself
significant ( p.01). Thus, the feeling of loneliness seems to
spread more easily than a feeling of belonging.
To study person-to-person effects, we examined the direct ties
and individual-level determinants of FP loneliness. In the GEE
models we present in Tables 6 –12, we control for several factors,
as noted earlier, and the effect of social influence from one person
on another is captured by the “Days/Week LP Currently Lonely”
coefficient in the first row. We have highlighted in bold the social
influence coefficients that are significant. Figure 4 summarizes the
results from these models for friends, spouses, siblings, and neigh-
bors. Each extra day of loneliness in a “nearby” friend (who lives
within 1 mile) increases the number of days FP is lonely by 0.29
days (95% CI 0.07 to 0.50; see the first model in Table 6). In
contrast, more distant friends (who live more than 1 mile away)
have no significant effect on FP, and the effect size appears to
decline with distance (see the second model in Table 6). Among
Figure 2. Social distance and loneliness in the Framingham Social Net-
work. This figure shows for each exam the percentage increase in the
likelihood a given focal participant (FP) is lonely if a friend or family
member at a certain social distance is lonely (where lonely is defined as
feeling lonely more than once a week). The relationship is strongest
between individuals who are directly connected, but it remains signifi-
cantly greater than zero at social distances up to three degrees of separa-
tion, meaning that a person’s loneliness is associated with the loneliness of
people up to three degrees removed from them in the network. Values are
derived by comparing the conditional probability of being lonely in the
observed network with an identical network (with topology and incidence
of loneliness preserved) in which the same number of lonely participants
are randomly distributed. Linked participant (LP) social distance refers to
closest social distance between the LP and FP (LP Distance 1, LP’s
LP Distance 2, etc.). Error bars show 95% confidence intervals.
982 CACIOPPO, FOWLER, AND CHRISTAKIS
friends, we can distinguish additional possibilities. Because each
person was asked to name a friend, and not all of these nomina-
tions were reciprocated, we have FP-perceived friends (denoted
“friends”), “LP-perceived friends” (LP named FP as a friend, but
not vice versa) and “mutual friends” (FP and LP nominated each
other). Nearby mutual friends have a stronger effect than nearby
FP-perceived friends; each day they are lonely adds 0.41 days of
loneliness for the FP (95% CI 0.14 to 0.67; see the third model
Figure 3. Lonely linked participants (LPs) in the Framingham Social
Network. This plot shows that the number of days per week a person feels
lonely in Exams 6 and 7 is positively associated with the fraction of their
friends and family in the previous exam who are lonely (those who say they
are lonely more than one day a week). The solid line shows smoothed
relationship based on bivariate LOESS regression, and dotted lines indicate
95% confidence intervals. The results show that people surrounded by
other lonely people are themselves more likely to feel lonely in the future.
Table 4
Prospective Influence of Friends and Family on Loneliness and Vice Versa
Variable
Current wave
Days/week feel lonely No. of friends No. of family
Coef SE p Coef SE p Coef SE p
Prior wave days/week feel lonely 0.257 0.021 .000 0.010 0.004 .010 0.007 0.006 .227
Prior wave no. of friends 0.040 0.013 .002 0.900 0.007 .000 0.029 0.007 .000
Prior wave no. of family 0.001 0.004 .797 0.003 0.002 .046 0.933 0.003 .000
Age 0.006 0.001 .000 0.002 0.000 .000 0.002 0.001 .003
Years of education 0.014 0.006 .019 0.003 0.002 .145 0.005 0.003 .033
Female 0.124 0.024 .000 0.016 0.009 .067 0.014 0.012 .240
Exam 7 0.043 0.022 .057 0.007 0.009 .419 0.041 0.012 .001
Constant 0.112 0.196 .569 0.092 0.075 .223 0.275 0.089 .002
Deviance 5,065 720 1,288
Null deviance 5,656 4,866 57,349
N6,083 6,083 6,083
Note. Coef coefficient. Results for linear regression of focal participant’s loneliness, number of friends, and number of family members at current exam on prior
loneliness, number of friends, and number of family, plus other covariates. Models were estimated using a general estimating equation with clustering on the focal participant
and an independent working covariance structure (Liang & Zeger, 1986; Schildcrout & Heagerty, 2005). Models with an exchangeable correlation structure yielded poorer
fit. Fit statistics show sum of squared deviance between predicted and observed values for the model and a null model with no covariates (Wei, 2002). The main results
(coefficients in bold) show that number of friends is associated with a decrease in future loneliness, and loneliness is associated with a decrease in future friends.
Table 5
Influence of Number of Lonely Linked Participants on Focal
Participant Loneliness
Variable
Current wave days/week feel
lonely
Coef SE p
Prior wave number of lonely LPs 0.064 0.017 .000
Prior wave number of nonlonely LPs 0.024 0.008 .002
Prior wave days/week feel lonely 0.230 0.022 .000
Age 0.003 0.002 .030
Years of education 0.003 0.006 .641
Female 0.121 0.025 .000
Exam 7 0.053 0.024 .027
Constant 0.037 0.206 .858
Deviance 3,487
Null deviance 3,831
N4,879
Note. Coef coefficient; LP linked participant. Results for linear regres-
sion of focal participant’s loneliness, on prior loneliness, number of lonely
friends and family (1 day of loneliness per week), number of nonlonely
friends and family (0 –1 days of loneliness per week), and other covariates.
Models were estimated using a general estimating equation with clustering on
the focal participant and an independent working covariance structure (Liang
& Zeger, 1986; Schildcrout & Heagerty, 2005). Models with an exchangeable
correlation structure yielded poorer fit. Fit statistics show sum of squared
deviance between predicted and observed values for the model and a null
model with no covariates (Wei, 2002). The main results (coefficients in bold)
show that number of lonely LPs is associated with an increase in future
loneliness and the number of nonlonely LPs is associated with a decrease in
future loneliness. Moreover, the lonely LP effect is significantly stronger than
the nonlonely LP effect ( p.01, calculated by drawing 1000 pairs of
coefficients from the coefficient covariance matrix produced by the model).
983
STRUCTURE AND SPREAD OF LONELINESS
in the third column of Table 6). In contrast, the influence of nearby
LP-perceived friends is not significant ( p.25; see the fourth
model in the fourth column of Table 6). If the associations in the
social network were merely due to confounding, the significance
and effect sizes for different types of friendships should be similar.
That is, if some third factor were explaining both FP and LP
loneliness, it should not respect the directionality or strength of the
tie.
We also find significant effects for other kinds of LPs. Each day
a coresident spouse is lonely yields 0.10 extra days of loneliness
for the FP (95% CI 0.02 to 0.17; see the fifth model in Table 6),
whereas noncoresident spouses have no significant effect (see the
sixth model). Next-door neighbors who experience an extra day of
loneliness increase FP’s loneliness by 0.21 days (95% CI 0.04
to 0.38; see the third model in the third column of Table 7), but this
effect quickly drops close to zero among neighbors who live on the
same block (within 25 m; see the fourth model in Table 7). All
these relationships indicate the importance of physical proximity,
and the strong influence of neighbors suggests that the spread of
loneliness may possibly depend more on frequent social contact in
older adults. But siblings do not appear to affect one another at all
(even the ones who live nearby; see the first model in Table 7),
which provides additional evidence that loneliness in older adults
is about the relationships people choose, rather than the relation-
ships they inherit. And spouses appear to be an intermediate
category; Table 8 shows that spouses are significantly less influ-
ential than friends in the spread of loneliness from person to person
(as indicated by the significant interaction term in the first row of
Table 8).
Analyses separated by gender suggested that loneliness spreads
more easily among women than among men and that this holds for
both friends and neighbors. As shown in the coefficients in the first
row of Tables 9 and 10, women are more likely to be affected by
the loneliness of both their friends (see Table 9) and neighbors (see
Table 10), and their loneliness is more likely to spread to other
people in their social network. The coefficients in bold show that
social influence is greatest when the FP or the LP is female.
Women also reported higher levels of loneliness than did men. We
are reporting estimates from a linear model, however, so the
baseline rate of loneliness should not affect the absolute differ-
ences that we observed. (We would be more concerned about this
possible effect if we were reporting odds ratios or risk ratios that
are sensitive to the baseline.) In a linear model, any additive
differences in baseline should be captured by the sex variable in
the model, which does show a significantly higher baseline for
women. However, because we include this control, the baseline
Figure 4. Linked participant (LP) type and loneliness in the Framingham
Social Network. This figure shows that friends, spouses, and neighbors
significantly influence loneliness, but only if they live very close to the
focal participant. Effects are estimated using generalized estimating equa-
tion linear models on several different subsamples of the Framingham
Social Network (see Tables 6 and 7).
Table 6
Association of LP Loneliness and FP Loneliness
Variable
LP type
Nearby
friend
Distant
friend
Nearby
mutual friend
Nearby LP:
Perceived friend
Coresident
spouse
Noncoresident
spouse
Days/week LP currently lonely 0.29 (0.11) 0.08 (0.05) 0.41 (0.13) 0.35 (0.30) 0.10 (0.04) 0.08 (0.05)
Days/week LP lonely in prior wave 0.12 (0.05) 0.11 (0.05) 0.16 (0.09) 0.02 (0.08) 0.03 (0.02) 0.06 (0.05)
Days/week FP lonely in prior wave 0.31 (0.13) 0.39 (0.09) 0.28 (0.14) 0.10 (0.05) 0.21 (0.04) 0.04 (0.05)
Exam 7 0.11 (0.09) 0.05 (0.07) 0.04 (0.16) 0.07 (0.09) 0.08 (0.03) 0.01 (0.08)
FP’s age 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00) 0.01 (0.00)
FP female 0.18 (0.09) 0.06 (0.08) 0.17 (0.14) 0.12 (0.14) 0.11 (0.03) 0.04 (0.08)
FP’s years of education 0.00 (0.01) 0.01 (0.02) 0.01 (0.02) 0.05 (0.03) 0.00 (0.01) 0.05 (0.02)
Constant 0.30 (0.43) 0.04 (0.60) 0.78 (0.60) 0.89 (0.71) 0.48 (0.20) 1.65 (0.51)
Deviance 236 677 138 122 1,575 275
Null deviance 375 899 285 145 1,734 290
N472 1,014 214 274 3,716 592
Note. LP linked participant; FP focal participant. Coefficients and standard errors in parentheses for linear regression of days per week FP feels
lonely on covariates are shown. Observations for each model are restricted by type of relationship (e.g., the leftmost model includes only observations in
which the FP named the LP as a “friend” in the previous and current period, and the friend is “nearby,” i.e., lives no more than 1 mile away). Models were
estimated using a general estimating equation with clustering on the FP and an independent working covariance structure (Liang & Zeger, 1986; Schildcrout
& Heagerty, 2005). Models with an exchangeable correlation structure yielded poorer fit. Fit statistics show sum of squared deviance between predicted
and observed values for the model and a null model with no covariates (Wei, 2002).
984 CACIOPPO, FOWLER, AND CHRISTAKIS
difference in men and women should not affect the interpretation
of the absolute number of days each additional day of loneliness
experienced by an LP contributes to the loneliness experienced by
an FP.
Finally, our measure of loneliness was derived from the “I feel
lonely” item in the CES–D. To address whether our results would
change if depression were included in the models, we created a
depression index by summing the other 19 questions in the CES–D
(dropping the question on loneliness). The Pearson correlation
between the indices in our data is 0.566. If depression is causing
the correlation in loneliness between social contacts, then the
coefficient on LP loneliness should be reduced to insignificance
when we add depression variables to the models in Tables 6 and 7.
Specifically, we added a contemporaneous and lagged variable for
both FP’s and LP’s depression. The results in Tables 11 and 12
show that there is a significant association between FP current
depression and FP current loneliness (the eighth row in bold), but
other depression variables have no effect, and adding them to the
model has little effect on the association between FP and LP
loneliness. Loneliness in nearby friends, nearby mutual friends,
immediate neighbors, and nearby neighbors all remain signifi-
cantly associated with FP loneliness.
Discussion
The present research shows that what might appear to be a
quintessential individualistic experience—loneliness—is not only
a function of the individual but is also a property of groups of
people. People who are lonely tend to be linked to others who are
lonely, an effect that is stronger for geographically proximal than
distant friends yet extends up to three degrees of separation
(friends’ friends’ friends) within the social network. The nature of
the friendship matters, as well, in that nearby mutual friends show
stronger effects than nearby ordinary friends. If some third factor
were explaining both focal and linked participants’ loneliness, then
loneliness should not be contingent on the different types of
friendship or the directionality of the tie. These results, therefore,
argue against loneliness within networks primarily reflecting
shared environments.
Longitudinal analyses also indicated that nonlonely individuals
who are around lonely individuals tend to grow lonelier over time.
Table 7
Association of LP Loneliness and FP Loneliness
Variable
LP type
Nearby
sibling
Distant
sibling
Immediate
neighbor
Neighbor within
25 m
Neighbor within
100 m Coworker
Days/week LP currently lonely 0.00 (0.03) 0.03 (0.01) 0.21 (0.09) 0.04 (0.02) 0.05 (0.03) 0.00 (0.03)
Days/week LP lonely in prior wave 0.02 (0.02) 0.03 (0.01) 0.08 (0.06) 0.03 (0.02) 0.02 (0.03) 0.02 (0.02)
Days/week FP lonely in prior wave 0.18 (0.05) 0.18 (0.04) 0.39 (0.19) 0.22 (0.04) 0.08 (0.06) 0.18 (0.05)
Exam 7 0.00 (0.05) 0.03 (0.04) 0.25 (0.13) 0.12 (0.06) 0.01 (0.10) 0.00 (0.05)
FP’s age 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00) 0.01 (0.00) 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00)
FP female 0.10 (0.05) 0.06 (0.04) 0.14 (0.12) 0.17 (0.06) 0.22 (0.09) 0.10 (0.05)
FP’s years of education 0.01 (0.02) 0.00 (0.01) 0.02 (0.04) 0.00 (0.02) 0.01 (0.02) 0.01 (0.02)
Constant 0.82 (0.43) 0.71 (0.29) 0.33 (0.68) 0.01 (0.34) 1.02 (0.39) 0.82 (0.43)
Deviance 1,065 3,729 205 1,618 5,738 636
Null deviance 1,140 3,954 366 1,930 6,278 665
N2,124 6,168 364 1,904 6,888 1,330
Note. LP linked participant; FP focal participant. Coefficients and standard errors in parentheses for linear regression of days per week FP feels
lonely on covariates are shown. Observations for each model are restricted by type of relationship (e.g., the leftmost model includes only observations in
which the FP named the LP as a “sibling” in the previous and current period, and the sibling is “nearby,” i.e., lives no more than 1 mile away). Models
were estimated using a general estimating equation with clustering on the FP and an independent working covariance structure (Liang & Zeger, 1986;
Schildcrout & Heagerty, 2005). Models with an exchangeable correlation structure yielded poorer fit. Fit statistics show sum of squared deviance between
predicted and observed values for the model and a null model with no covariates (Wei, 2002).
Table 8
Influence of Type of Relationship on Association Between LP
Loneliness and FP Loneliness
Variable Coef SE p
LP is Spouse Days/Week LP
Currently Lonely 0.274 0.138 .047
Days/week LP currently lonely 0.364 0.131 .005
LP is spouse (instead of friend) 0.165 0.092 .074
Days/week LP lonely in prior wave 0.046 0.022 .033
Days/week FP lonely in prior wave 0.227 0.046 .000
Exam 7 0.082 0.031 .009
FP’s age 0.000 0.002 .914
Female 0.117 0.032 .000
FP’s years of education 0.005 0.006 .470
Constant 0.232 0.204 .255
Deviance 910
Null deviance 1,056
N2,094
Note. LP linked participant; FP focal participant. Results for linear
regression of days per week FP feels lonely at next exam on covariates are
shown. Sample includes all spouses and nearby friends (nearby ⫽⬍1 mile
away). The interaction term in the first row tests the hypothesis that
spouses have less influence than friends on loneliness. Models were esti-
mated using a general estimating equation with clustering on the FP and an
independent working covariance structure (Liang & Zeger, 1986; Schild-
crout & Heagerty, 2005). Models with an exchangeable correlation struc-
ture yielded poorer fit. Fit statistics show sum of squared deviance between
predicted and observed values for the model and a null model with no
covariates (Wei, 2002). The results show that spouses exert significantly
less influence on each other than friends.
985
STRUCTURE AND SPREAD OF LONELINESS
The longitudinal results suggest that loneliness appears in social
networks through the operation of induction (e.g., contagion),
rather than simply arising from lonely individuals finding them-
selves isolated from others and choosing to become connected to
other lonely individuals (i.e., the homophily hypothesis). The
present study does not permit us to identify the extent to which the
emotional, cognitive, and behavioral consequences of loneliness
contributed to the induction of loneliness. All three contagion
processes are promoted by face-to-face communications and dis-
closures, especially between individuals who share close ties, and
can extend to friends’ friends and beyond through a chaining of
these effects. The social network pattern of loneliness and the
interpersonal spread of loneliness through the network therefore
appear most consistent with the induction hypothesis.
If loneliness is contagious, what, if anything, keeps the conta-
gion in check? An observation by Harlow et al. (1965) in their
studies of social isolation in rhesus monkeys offers a clue. When
the isolate monkeys were reintroduced into the colony, Harlow et
al., noted that most of these isolate animals were driven off or
eliminated. Our results suggest that humans may similarly drive
away lonely members of their species and that feeling socially
isolated can lead to one becoming objectively isolated. Loneliness
not only spreads from person to person within a social network but
it also reduces the ties of these individuals to others within the
network. As a result, loneliness is found in clusters within social
networks, is disproportionately represented at the periphery of
social networks, and threatens the cohesiveness of the network.
The collective rejection of isolates observed in humans and other
Table 9
Association of LP Loneliness and FP Loneliness in Friends, By Gender
Variable
LP type friend within 2 miles
FP male FP female LP male LP female
FP&LP
male
FP&LP
female
FP&LP
opposite gender
Days/week LP currently lonely 0.03 (0.03) 0.33 (0.15) 0.02 (0.05) 0.25 (0.13) 0.05 (0.04) 0.36 (0.15) 0.02 (0.11)
Days/week LP lonely in prior wave 0.04 (0.04) 0.01 (0.05) 0.05 (0.07) 0.01 (0.04) 0.03 (0.06) 0.01 (0.05) 0.04 (0.07)
Days/week FP lonely in prior wave 0.35 (0.18) 0.37 (0.11) 0.36 (0.19) 0.38 (0.11) 0.15 (0.04) 0.31 (0.11) 0.79 (0.21)
Exam 7 0.16 (0.09) 0.12 (0.12) 0.15 (0.10) 0.13 (0.11) 0.07 (0.07) 0.09 (0.11) 0.41 (0.26)
FP’s age 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.02 (0.02)
FP’s years of education 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.02) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.02) 0.02 (0.01) 0.00 (0.02) 0.05 (0.03)
Constant 0.33 (0.57) 0.10 (0.71) 0.46 (0.63) 0.09 (0.64) 0.09 (0.52) 0.27 (0.71) 1.85 (1.04)
Deviance 57 142 58 144 38 123 23
Null deviance 73 218 72 221 42 190 58
N195 194 174 215 166 186 37
Note. LP linked participant; FP focal participant. Coefficients and standard errors in parentheses for linear regression of days per week FP feels
lonely on covariates are shown. Observations for each model are restricted by type of relationship (e.g., the leftmost model includes only observations in
which the FP is a male); all LPs in this table are friends who live within two miles. Models were estimated using a general estimating equation with
clustering on the FP and an independent working covariance structure (Liang & Zeger, 1986; Schildcrout & Heagerty, 2005). Models with an exchangeable
correlation structure yielded poorer fit. Fit statistics show sum of squared deviance between predicted and observed values for the model and a null model
with no covariates (Wei, 2002).
Table 10
Association of LP Loneliness and FP Loneliness in Neighbors, By Gender
Variable
LP type neighbor within 25 m
FP male FP female LP male LP female
FP&LP
male
FP&LP
female
FP&LP
opposite gender
Days/week LP currently lonely 0.05 (0.06) 0.19 (0.08) 0.06 (0.04) 0.14 (0.06) 0.00 (0.06) 0.24 (0.09) 0.01 (0.06)
Days/week LP lonely in prior wave 0.00 (0.02) 0.07 (0.05) 0.05 (0.04) 0.06 (0.05) 0.02 (0.03) 0.08 (0.07) 0.02 (0.03)
Days/week FP lonely in prior wave 0.16 (0.06) 0.27 (0.07) 0.20 (0.07) 0.31 (0.07) 0.14 (0.07) 0.31 (0.08) 0.20 (0.06)
Exam 7 0.18 (0.08) 0.02 (0.19) 0.04 (0.14) 0.16 (0.11) 0.18 (0.08) 0.10 (0.17) 0.06 (0.12)
FP’s age 0.00 (0.00) 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00)
FP’s years of education 0.02 (0.02) 0.03 (0.04) 0.01 (0.03) 0.02 (0.03) 0.03 (0.02) 0.04 (0.05) 0.01 (0.02)
Constant 0.04 (0.40) 1.25 (1.02) 0.84 (0.69) 0.76 (0.72) 0.23 (0.57) 1.12 (1.23) 0.86 (0.52)
Deviance 127 571 244 473 26 350 318
Null deviance 137 684 264 574 29 454 342
N353 535 352 536 140 323 425
Note. LP linked participant; FP focal participant. Coefficients and standard errors in parentheses for linear regression of days per week FP feels
lonely on covariates are shown. Observations for each model are restricted by type of relationship (e.g., the leftmost model includes only observations in
which the FP is a male); all LPs in this table are nonrelated neighbors who live within 25 m. Models were estimated using a general estimating equation
with clustering on the FP and an independent working covariance structure (Liang & Zeger, 1986; Schildcrout & Heagerty, 2005). Models with an
exchangeable correlation structure yielded poorer fit. Fit statistics show sum of squared deviance between predicted and observed values for the model and
a null model with no covariates (Wei, 2002).
986 CACIOPPO, FOWLER, AND CHRISTAKIS
primates may therefore serve to protect the structural integrity of
social networks.
In the present study, the finding that loneliness spreads more
quickly among friends than family further suggests that the rejec-
tion of isolates to protect social networks occurs more forcibly in
networks that we select, rather than in those we inherit. This effect
may be limited to older populations, however. The mean age in our
sample was 64 years, and elderly adults have been found to reduce
the size of their networks to focus on those relationships that are
relatively rewarding, with costly family ties among those that are
trimmed (Carstensen, 2001). Although a spouse’s loneliness was
related to an individual’s subsequent loneliness, friends appeared
Table 11
Association of LP Loneliness and FP Loneliness Controlling for Depression (Compare With Table 6)
Variable
LP type
Nearby
friend
Distant
friend
Nearby
mutual friend
Nearby LP:
Perceived friend
Coresident
spouse
Noncoresident
spouse
Days/week LP currently lonely 0.28 (0.12) 0.09 (0.06) 0.37 (0.15) 0.33 (0.28) 0.03 (0.04) 0.05 (0.07)
Days/week LP lonely in prior wave 0.13 (0.07) 0.07 (0.05) 0.13 (0.12) 0.02 (0.07) 0.01 (0.02) 0.03 (0.04)
Days/week FP lonely in prior wave 0.13 (0.13) 0.14 (0.07) 0.17 (0.17) 0.05 (0.06) 0.11 (0.04) 0.00 (0.06)
Exam 7 0.03 (0.09) 0.08 (0.09) 0.18 (0.13) 0.24 (0.11) 0.00 (0.03) 0.07 (0.09)
FP’s age 0.00 (0.00) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.02 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00)
FP female 0.01 (0.08) 0.01(0.07) 0.07 (0.15) 0.11 (0.14) 0.05 (0.03) 0.00 (0.07)
FP’s years of education 0.01 (0.02) 0.01 (0.02) 0.01 (0.02) 0.04 (0.02) 0.01 (0.01) 0.02 (0.01)
FP current depression index 0.07 (0.02) 0.08 (0.01) 0.07 (0.04) 0.06 (0.02) 0.05 (0.01) 0.06 (0.02)
FP depression index in prior wave 0.00 (0.02) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.02) 0.02 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.01)
LP current depression index 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.02 (0.02) 0.00 (0.01) 0.01 (0.00) 0.01 (0.01)
LP depression index in prior wave 0.02 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.01)
Constant 0.11 (0.41) 0.44 (0.54) 0.25 (0.70) 1.23 (0.57) 0.07 (0.20) 0.47 (0.35)
Deviance 157 405 87 80 959 146
Null deviance 353 765 266 126 1,422 219
N396 826 182 232 3,040 492
Note. LP linked participant; FP focal participant. Coefficients and standard errors in parentheses for linear regression of days per week FP feels
lonely on covariates are shown. Observations for each model are restricted by type of relationship (e.g., the leftmost model includes only observations in
which the FP named the LP as a “friend” in the previous and current period, and the friend is “nearby,” i.e., lives no more than 1 mile away). Models were
estimated using a general estimating equation with clustering on the FP and an independent working covariance structure (Liang & Zeger, 1986; Schildcrout
& Heagerty, 2005). Models with an exchangeable correlation structure yielded poorer fit. Fit statistics show sum of squared deviance between predicted
and observed values for the model and a null model with no covariates (Wei, 2002).
Table 12
Association of LP Loneliness and FP Loneliness Controlling For Depression (Compare With Table 7)
Variable
LP type
Nearby sibling Distant sibling
Immediate
neighbor
Neighbor within
25 m
Neighbor within
100 m Coworker
Days/week LP currently lonely 0.00 (0.03) 0.03 (0.01) 0.21 (0.09) 0.04 (0.02) 0.05 (0.03) 0.00 (0.03)
Days/week LP lonely in prior wave 0.02 (0.02) 0.03 (0.01) 0.08 (0.06) 0.03 (0.02) 0.02 (0.03) 0.02 (0.02)
Days/week FP lonely in prior wave 0.18 (0.05) 0.18 (0.04) 0.39 (0.19) 0.22 (0.04) 0.08 (0.06) 0.18 (0.05)
Exam 7 0.00 (0.05) 0.03 (0.04) 0.25 (0.13) 0.12 (0.06) 0.01 (0.10) 0.00 (0.05)
FP’s age 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.00) 0.01 (0.00) 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00)
FP female 0.10 (0.05) 0.06 (0.04) 0.14 (0.12) 0.17 (0.06) 0.22 (0.09) 0.10 (0.05)
FP’s years of education 0.01 (0.02) 0.00 (0.01) 0.02 (0.04) 0.00 (0.02) 0.01 (0.02) 0.01 (0.02)
FP current depression index 0.07 (0.02) 0.08 (0.01) 0.07 (0.04) 0.06 (0.02) 0.05 (0.01) 0.06 (0.02)
FP depression index in prior wave 0.00 (0.02) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.02) 0.02 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.01)
LP current depression index 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.02 (0.02) 0.00 (0.01) 0.01 (0.00) 0.01 (0.01)
LP depression index in prior wave 0.02 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.00) 0.00 (0.01)
Constant 0.82 (0.43) 0.71 (0.29) 0.33 (0.68) 0.01 (0.34) 1.02 (0.39) 0.82 (0.43)
Deviance 659 2,114 103 896 3,323 301
Null deviance 991 3,127 360 1,699 5,244 630
N1,748 5,054 300 1,562 5,540 1,140
Note. LP linked participant; FP focal participant. Coefficients and standard errors in parentheses for linear regression of days per week FP feels
lonely on covariates are shown. Observations for each model are restricted by type of relationship (e.g., the leftmost model includes only observations in
which the FP named the LP as a “sibling” in the previous and current period, and the sibling is “nearby,” i.e., lives no more than 1 mile away). Models
were estimated using a general estimating equation with clustering on the FP and an independent working covariance structure (Liang & Zeger, 1986;
Schildcrout & Heagerty, 2005). Models with an exchangeable correlation structure yielded poorer fit. Fit statistics show sum of squared deviance between
predicted and observed values for the model and a null model with no covariates (Wei, 2002).
987
STRUCTURE AND SPREAD OF LONELINESS
to have more impact on loneliness than did spouses. The gender
differences we observed may contribute to this finding. Wheeler et
al. (1983) reported that loneliness is related to how much time
male and female participants interact with women each day, and
we found that the spread of loneliness was stronger for women
than for men. Research is needed to address whether the absence
of an effect of spouses and family members on the loneliness is
more typical of older than younger adults and women than men.
Fowler and Christakis (2008a) found that happiness also oc-
curred in clusters and spread through networks. Several important
differences have emerged in the induction of happiness and the
induction of loneliness, however. First, Fowler and Christakis
(2008) found happiness to be more likely than unhappiness to
spread through social networks. The present research, in contrast,
indicates that the spread of loneliness is more powerful than the
spread of nonloneliness. Negative events typically have more
powerful effects than positive events (i.e., differential reactivity;
Cacioppo & Gardner, 1999), so Fowler and Christakis’s (2008)
findings about the spread of happiness through social networks is
distinctive. Whereas laboratory studies are designed to gauge
differential reactivity to a positive or negative event, the Fowler
and Christakis (2008) study also reflects people’s differential
exposure to happy and unhappy events. Thus, happiness may
spread through networks more than unhappiness because people
have much more frequent exposures to friends expressing happi-
ness than unhappiness.
Loneliness does not have a bipolar opposite like happiness, but,
rather, is like hunger, thirst, and pain in that its absence is the
normal condition, rather than an evocative state (Cacioppo &
Patrick, 2008). Furthermore, as an aversive state, loneliness may
motivate people to seek social connection (whatever the response
of others to such overtures), which has the effect of increasing the
likelihood that those proximal to a lonely individual will be ex-
posed to loneliness. Together, these processes may make loneli-
ness more contagious than nonloneliness.
A second difference between the spread of happiness and lone-
liness concerns the effect of gender. Fowler and Christakis (2008)
found no gender differences in the spread of happiness, whereas
we found that loneliness spreads much more easily among women
than among men. Women may be more likely to express and share
their emotions and may be more attentive to the emotions of others
(Hatfield et al., 1994), but the spread of happiness, as well as
loneliness, would be fostered similarly among women were this a
sufficient cause. There is also a stigma associated with loneliness,
particularly among men; women are more likely to engage in
intimate disclosures than are men; and relational connectedness is
more important for women than for men (Brewer & Gardner,
1996; Hawkley et al., 2005; Shaver & Brennan, 1991). These
processes may explain the greater spread of loneliness among
women relative to men. The present results, however, clearly show
that gender, like proximity and type of relationship, influences the
spread of loneliness.
A limitation of all social network analyses is that the studies are
necessarily bound their sample. The compact nature of the Fra-
mingham population in the period from 1971 to 2007 and the
geographical proximity of the influence mitigate this constraint,
but we nevertheless considered whether the results might have
changed with a larger sample frame that includes all named indi-
viduals who were themselves not participants in the Framingham
Heart Study. For instance, we calculated the statistical relationship
between the tendency to name people outside the study and lone-
liness. A Pearson correlation between the number of contacts
named outside the study and loneliness is not significant and
actually flips signs from one exam to another (Exam 6, 0.016, p
.39; Exam 7, 0.011, p.53). This result suggests that the
sampling frame is not biasing the average level of loneliness in the
target individuals we are studying.
A second possible limitation is that we included all participants
in the analysis. It is possible that the death or loss of certain critical
social network members during the study systematically affect
how lonely FPs felt across time. To address this possibility, we
restricted analysis to those individuals (both FPs and LPs) who
remained alive at the end of the study. If death is the only or most
important source of network loss that causes the association be-
tween FP and LP loneliness, then removing observations of people
who died during the study should reduce the association to insig-
nificance. Results of these analyses show that the restriction has no
effect on the association between FP and LP loneliness. Loneliness
in nearby friends, nearby mutual friends, spouses, and immediate
neighbors all remain significantly associated with FP loneliness.
The death of critical network members, therefore, does not appear
to account for our results.
Prior research has shown that disability is a predictor of lone-
liness (Hawkley et al., 2008). A related issue, therefore, is whether
the disability status of FPs factor into our findings. To address this
issue, we created a disability index by summing five questions
from the Katz Index of Activities of Daily Living (Spector, Katz,
Murphy, & Fulton, 1987) about the subjects’ ability to indepen-
dently dress themselves, bathe themselves, eat and drink, get into
and out of a chair, and use the toilet. The Pearson correlation
between the indices in our data is 0.06 (ns). If disabilities affect the
correlation in loneliness between social contacts, then the coeffi-
cient on LP loneliness may be reduced to insignificance when we
add disability variables to the models in Tables 6 and 7. Specifi-
cally, we added a contemporaneous and lagged variable for both
FP’s and LP’s disability index. The results of these ancillary
analyses indicated that loneliness in nearby friends, nearby mutual
friends, immediate neighbors, and nearby neighbors all remain
significantly associated with FP loneliness. Thus, disability does
not appear to account for our findings.
In conclusion, the observation that loneliness can be passed
from person to person is reminiscent of sociologist Emile
Durkheim’s (1951) famous observation about suicide. He noticed
that suicide rates stayed the same across time and across groups,
even though the individual members of those groups came and
went. In other words, whether people took their own lives de-
pended on the kind of society they inhabited. Although suicide,
like loneliness, has often been regarded as entirely individualistic,
Durkheim’s work indicates that suicide is driven in part by larger
social forces. Although loneliness has a heritable component, the
present study shows it also to be influenced by broader social
network processes. Indeed, we detected an extraordinary pattern at
the edge of the social network. On the periphery, people have
fewer friends, which makes them lonely, but it also drives them to
cut the few ties that they have left. But before they do, they tend
to transmit the same feeling of loneliness to their remaining
friends, starting the cycle anew. These reinforcing effects mean
that our social fabric can fray at the edges, like a yarn that comes
988 CACIOPPO, FOWLER, AND CHRISTAKIS
loose at the end of a crocheted sweater. An important implication
of this finding is that interventions to reduce loneliness in our
society may benefit by aggressively targeting the people in the
periphery to help repair their social networks. By helping them, we
might create a protective barrier against loneliness that can keep
the whole network from unraveling.
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Call for Nominations
The Publications and Communications (P&C) Board of the American Psychological Association
has opened nominations for the editorships of Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology,
Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Journal of Comparative Psychology, Journal of Counseling
Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Journal of Experimental Psychol-
ogy: Human Perception and Performance, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:
Attitudes and Social Cognition, PsycCRITIQUES, and Rehabilitation Psychology for the years
2012–2017. Nancy K. Mello, PhD, David Watson, PhD, Gordon M. Burghardt, PhD, Brent S.
Mallinckrodt, PhD, Fernanda Ferreira, PhD, Glyn W. Humphreys, PhD, Charles M. Judd, PhD,
Danny Wedding, PhD, and Timothy R. Elliott, PhD, respectively, are the incumbent editors.
Candidates should be members of APA and should be available to start receiving manuscripts in
early 2011 to prepare for issues published in 2012. Please note that the P&C Board encourages
participation by members of underrepresented groups in the publication process and would partic-
ularly welcome such nominees. Self-nominations are also encouraged.
Search chairs have been appointed as follows:
Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, William Howell, PhD
Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Norman Abeles, PhD
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Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Peter Ornstein, PhD
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance,
Leah Light, PhD
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition,
Jennifer Crocker, PhD
PsycCRITIQUES, Valerie Reyna, PhD
Rehabilitation Psychology, Bob Frank, PhD
Candidates should be nominated by accessing APA’s EditorQuest site on the Web. Using your
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to Emnet Tesfaye, P&C Board Search Liaison, at emnet@apa.org.
Deadline for accepting nominations is January 10, 2010, when reviews will begin.
991
STRUCTURE AND SPREAD OF LONELINESS
... attributes characteristic of what "living well" entails. Being unable to actively exercise our human faculties to achieve a sense of belonging and union is accompanied by feelings of loneliness and separationcomparable to hunger or thirst -which requires sating (Cacioppo, Fowler & Christakis, 2009;Baumeister & Leary, 1995;Fromm, 1998). Loneliness is an experience shared across all age-ranges, and it is the quality of companionship, perceived support and conflict-resolution provided by the personal community and intimate relations that offset this (Laursen & Hartl, 2013;Parker & Asher, 1993;Sullivan, 1953). ...
... Reviewing the narratives, it is evident participants want to communicate with those who the recognise as valued people, such as friends, by relating to their experience while also engaging with the "meaning" of that experience. Withdrawal and "illness talk" in friendship appears result in people being out of touch with what others are thinking, feeling, and doing, which embeds further damaging effects on the psyche, such as shame and loneliness (Morgan, 2011;May, 2010;Cacioppo, Fowler & Christakis, 2009;Brown, 2006;Scheff, 2003;Fromm, 1998;Baumeister & Leary, 1995;Lasch, 1984). Participants also spoke frequently in binaries of "well" and "unwell" that assume and replicate a restitution narrative, forcing people in distress to adopt, or appeal to, notions of a life of "wellness" while simultaneously living with the "unwell" ...
... As suggested by existing theory (Cacioppo, Fowler & Christakis, 2009;Baumeister & Leary, 1995), those in friendship resist breaking existing bonds of "friendliness" in spite of feelings of interpersonal remoteness in order to retain some of the means of interpersonal dignity, respect and belonging. Here we see that retaining existing bonds forces the development of strategies that permit being within and outside the social field (Corin, 1990), to remain at an emotional distance while maintaining some sense of belonging; a partial or incomplete harmonising within friendship. ...
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Research, theory and mental health policy draws attention to the importance of family, social networks, community, employers and learning contexts in maintaining mental health and inclusion. Yet the meaningful complexities of friendship to psychological health and public policy has not received sustained analysis, and policy emphasis is often restricted towards family relations. This study explores the friendship-experiences of seventeen people who have endured mental health difficulties, through a critical narrative inquiry of their stories of friendship. A hermeneutics of suspicion, involving stigma, feminist and mad studies is used to explore meaning within the narratives. The study reveals the participants’ stories of problems of daily living, illness and stigma, of friendship as freedom and recognition, and friendship’s contribution to personal agency and establishing a valued position in society. The study develops a perspective of how compassion in friendship has helped articulate and reframe identities to one’s self, to others, and to distress, and therefore the potential contribution of friendship to living with mental distress. The thesis argues that mental health studies have been dominated by institutionalised relationships, of which friendship has been made to fit into theoretical frameworks of family- and kin-relationships. The thesis presents an alternative view of friendship to aid in the reformulation of the varieties of social relationships shared by people through mental distress. Additionally, there have been very few narrative studies that explore the friendship experiences of people with mental ill health and this study adds to a growing literature.
... Social network changes across the life span, and the older adults' social networks have been described as relatively smaller in size but closer in social proximity, mainly due to shrinking peripheral networks (8,9). Social network studies have reported that similarity serves as a strong foundation for the formation and maintenance of strong ties, such as best friends and marital couples (10)(11)(12), and negative emotions could spread via those social ties within a community (13,14). As documented in case reports of suicide among depressed older adult couples [M. ...
... Another possible explanation for the homophily phenomenon in social networks is social influence. Christakis et al. have demonstrated in a Framingham Heart Study that families, friends, and neighbors who spend time together become more similar to each other over time in terms of both positive and negative emotions (13,14,37). ...
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... In regard to RQ2, related to which theoretical frameworks have been used to link CT usage with reduced loneliness and/or social isolation of older people, this review determined that out of the N = 28 included reviews, only one made use of a general theory at the review level (Table 3). Masi et al. (2011) [50] hypothesized in their meta-analysis that-given the established centrality of social cognition to the experience of loneliness [56,57]-interventions that address maladaptive social cognition would have a greater impact on loneliness reduction than those that address social skills, social support, or opportunities for social interaction. Their meta-analytic empirical results supported the Social Cognitive Theory developed by psychologist Albert Bandura (1986) [58]. ...
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Background: Loneliness and social isolation in older age are considered major public health concerns and research on technology-based solutions is growing rapidly. This scoping review of reviews aims to summarize the communication technologies (CTs) (review question RQ1), theoretical frameworks (RQ2), study designs (RQ3), and positive effects of technology use (RQ4) present in the research field. Methods: A comprehensive multi-disciplinary, multi-database literature search was conducted. Identified reviews were analyzed according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) framework. A total of N = 28 research reviews that cover 248 primary studies spanning 50 years were included. Results: The majority of the included reviews addressed general internet and computer use (82% each) (RQ1). Of the 28 reviews, only one (4%) worked with a theoretical framework (RQ2) and 26 (93%) covered primary studies with quantitative-experimental designs (RQ3). The positive effects of technology use were shown in 55% of the outcome measures for loneliness and 44% of the outcome measures for social isolation (RQ4). Conclusion: While research reviews show that CTs can reduce loneliness and social isolation in older people, causal evidence is limited and insights on innovative technologies such as augmented reality systems are scarce.
... Because the early-life period is a critical window for brain development, the early-life environment is thought to influence the development of cognitive and emotional functions [1][2][3][4]. In particular, early-life social experiences could influence individuals' social and emotional functions in adulthood [5][6][7]. Human studies have reported that early-life social adversity, such as neglect and social deprivation, is associated with psychiatric disorders, which include social and emotional problems such as depression [8][9][10]. In addition, several animal studies have reported that deprivation of social experience in early life induces alterations of social and emotional behaviours [11][12][13][14][15][16][17]. ...
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Despite the negative impact of social isolation on wellbeing, research has yet to address how organisations may mitigate the effects of workplace isolation and loneliness. The main objective of the study is to explore the mediating role of task interdependence and supportive behaviours of colleagues on the relationship between workplace isolation on workplace wellbeing. A total of 137 volunteers completed a survey assessing workplace isolation, loneliness, task interdependence, supportive behaviours of colleagues and wellbeing at work. SEM analyses supported the negative effects of company isolation on workplace wellbeing. While supportive behaviours had a mediating role, task interdependence did not mediate the relationships between company isolation and loneliness, and wellbeing. The findings show that increased opportunities for interpersonal interactions at work through greater task interdependence are not enough to reverse the negative effects of workplace isolation on wellbeing. In contrast, an investment in a supportive environment may reverse the negative effects of workplace isolation on wellbeing, highlighting the importance of a supportive culture.
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During the mid-twentieth century, loneliness became the dominant affect in American fiction, reflecting a broader cultural narrative that social and demographic changes had led to a crisis of loneliness. This affective shift is captured in Richard Yates’s 1962 short story collection, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness—but Yates’s deliberate framing of his stories as “eleven kinds” implies a second object of critique. Reading Yates’s work for social and psychological types, this article proposes that personality tests, corporate typing, and social typologies had a major role in the rise in loneliness in midcentury America—a relationship borne out by contemporary sociology, most prominently The Lonely Crowd (1950) by David Riesman, Nathan Glazer, and Reuel Denney. This article further argues that by reading midcentury fiction more broadly for type, we can understand loneliness not merely as a bad feeling but as a space of contest between individuality and group belonging, intimately connected to larger political and social narratives. Setting Yates’s stories against midcentury novels by Ralph Ellison and Mary McCarthy, this article reframes American loneliness in light of the cultural changes of the midcentury and writers’ struggles with the possibilities and limitations of type.
Chapter
Zeitdiagnosen nehmen die Gegenwart in den Blick und fordern ein Verständnis aktueller Gegebenheiten aus den Entwicklungen der Vergangenheit heraus. Psychoanalytische Zeitdiagnosen erweitern diesen Fokus, indem sie auf das Unbewusste rekurrieren: auf unbewusste Konflikte, Ängste und Motive, auf Abwehrvorgänge und Kompromissbildungen, so wie sich diese auch in gesellschaftlichen Kollektiven manifestieren. Aktuell ist eine Vielzahl gesellschaftlicher, politischer, sozialer und ökologischer Umbrüche zu beobachten, ein Erstarken nationaler Kräfte, die Wiederaufrichtung von Grenzen, eine beschleunigte Digitalisierung, eine Kultur der Selbstoptimierung, der Verlust der Bindung in der Gemeinschaft und die Leugnung des Klimawandels. Die Autor:innen widmen sich diesen Phänomenen aus psychoanalytischer und psychotherapeutischer Perspektive. Mit Beiträgen von Lothar Bayer, Thomas C. Bender, Cord Benecke, Manfred Beutel, Gudrun Brockhaus, Micha Brumlik, Michael B. Buchholz, Karin A. Dittrich, Natalia Erazo, Mareike Ernst, Rüdiger Eschmann, Clemens Färber, Jeremy Gaines, Alf Gerlach, Benigna Gerisch, Delaram Habibi-Kohlen, Bernd Heimerl, Ewa Kobylinska-Dehe, Berthold König, Helga Krüger-Kirn, Kerstin Sischka, Wilhelm A. Skogstad, Annabell Starck, Martin Teising, Christoph Türcke, Daniel Weimer, Heinz Weiß, Susen Werner, Herbert Will, Hans-Jürgen Wirth und Ralf Zwiebel.
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Loneliness in Adolescents Against the Background of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Risk Factor Abstract. On the one hand, loneliness is the subjective experience of inadequate social integration and support. It is a normal phenomenon that can be dealt with in an emotional and action-oriented way within the framework of individual development. On the other hand, chronic loneliness goes hand in hand with considerable suffering, reduced quality of life, and an increased risk of psychological and somatic diseases. In the context of current social developments associated with the fragmentation of social networks and programmatic individualism, we discuss an increase in the problem of loneliness, especially among young people. Interventions to reduce the experience of loneliness are effective if, in addition to making social offers, they focus on the dynamics common in chronic loneliness (low self-esteem, evaluation of neutral communication as devaluing, etc.). There is no evidence that the use of virtual social networks persistently reduces feelings of loneliness in young people. In addition, the question arises on what basis of shared values and goals social integration of young people who experience loneliness will be possible in the future. According to the results of the first systematic surveys on the psychosocial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must assume that the loneliness problem of young people will continue to gain relevance because of the associated massive restrictions on real social life.
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Aims To evaluate evidence on loneliness interventions that have been assessed and found effective, both for remediation and addressing fundamental causes of loneliness; to consider why population-level primary prevention strategies targeting fundamental causes are necessary, and determine areas for future research; and to outline an integrated approach to prevention considering roles for the Public Health system. Method We conducted a review of systematic reviews to identify effective loneliness interventions and classified them in our Population-Prevention Matrix according to public health impact, amount of individual effort required, and level of prevention. We also highlighted emerging interventions that have yet to be formally evaluated. Results We identified a range of preventive or therapeutic approaches, and a dearth of population-level primary prevention interventions targeting fundamental causes of loneliness. Filling this gap will be essential in addressing the loneliness epidemic, and we provided emerging examples of population-level primary prevention interventions that may inform future efforts. Conclusion Based on evidence to date, we suggest an integrated approach to prevention with significant roles for the US Public Health system, including its function as Chief Health Strategist to lead and guide multisystem approaches to loneliness prevention, with a particular focus on population-level primary prevention strategies.
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In this study, the authors tested the relation between loneliness and subsequent admission to a nursing home over a 4-year time period in a sample of approximately 3,000 rural older Iowans. Higher levels of loneliness were found to increase the likelihood of nursing home admission and to decrease the time until nursing home admission. The influence of extremely high loneliness on nursing home admission remained statistically significant after controlling for other variables, such as age, education: income, mental status. physical health, morale, and social contact, that were also predictive of nursing horne admission, Several mechanisms are proposed to explain the link between extreme loneliness and nursing home admission. These include loneliness as a precipitant of declines in mental and physical health and nursing home placement as a strategy to gain social contact with others. Implications for preventative interventions are discussed.
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This study examines the changes in loneliness and social contacts among older rural adults over a 13-year period (67 to 80 years of age) and how the experience of loneliness is related to living conditions, health and personality during this period. The results showed a relatively stable pattern in loneliness and a low frequency of loneliness during the 13-year period. This stability in loneliness was found even if there had been considerable changes in social circumstances such as social contacts, marital status, and living conditions. Comparing loneliness among survivors and those who were going to die before the end of the survey, there were no statistically significant differences. Over the study period, contact frequencies with children decreased, while the total contacts outside the household increased. Feelings of loneliness and social contacts over time only corresponded partly with each other. Bivariate analyses showed that the onset of widowhood, as well as living alone, feelings that time passes more slowly these days, and general adjustment were significantly related to feelings of loneliness during the study period.