Friendships, loneliness and psychological well-being in older adults: A limit to the benefit of the number of friends

Thompson, Alexandra, Smith, Michael, Mcneill, Andrew and Pollet, Thomas (2022) Friendships, loneliness and psychological well-being in older adults: A limit to the benefit of the number of friends. Ageing & Society. ISSN 0144-686X (In Press)

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Loneliness is linked to many negative health outcomes and places strain on the economy and the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. To combat these issues, the determinants of loneliness need to be fully understood. Although friendships have been shown to be particularly important in relation to loneliness in older adults, this association has thus far not been explored more closely. Our exploratory study examines the relationship between number of friends and loneliness, depression, anxiety, and stress in older adults. Data were obtained from 335 older adults via completion of an online survey. Measures included loneliness (UCLA Version 3), depression, anxiety and stress (DASS-21). Participants also reported their number of close friends. Regression analyses revealed an inverse curvilinear relationship between number of friends and each of the measures tested. Breakpoint analyses demonstrated a threshold for the effect of number of friends on each of the measures (loneliness = 4, depression = 2, anxiety = 3, stress = 2). The results suggest that there is a limit to the benefit of increasing the number of friends in older adults for each of these measures. The elucidation of these optimal thresholds can inform the practice of those involved in loneliness interventions for older adults. These interventions can become more targeted; focusing on either establishing four close friendships, increasing the emotional closeness of existing friendships or concentrating resources on other determinants of loneliness in this population.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Loneliness, Friendships, Older Adults, Psychological Well-being
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 09 May 2022 06:47
Last Modified: 09 May 2022 08:00

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