Social network characteristics and loneliness in older adults

Thompson, Alexandra (2023) Social network characteristics and loneliness in older adults. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
thompson.alexandra_phd(09015482).pdf - Submitted Version

Download (3MB) | Preview


Background: Loneliness is a prevalent experience associated with many negative physical and mental health outcomes. Due to the ageing population worldwide, and the greater vulnerability of older adults to these outcomes, it is important that loneliness is understood in this age group to inform effective interventions. To date, research has not examined how commonly employed scales capture loneliness in older adults or how close friendships and other social network aspects relate to loneliness in depth.

Methods: Cross-sectional quantitative survey methods were employed throughout this thesis. The first two studies were conducted online to assess the measurement properties and overlap of commonly employed loneliness scales and, the relationship between close friendships and loneliness and psychological well-being in older adults. Postal surveys were utilised to examine egocentric social network characteristics in relation to loneliness and psychological well-being. Various network analytic techniques as well as polynomial and segmented regression methods were applied.

Findings: It was highlighted that the SELSA-S appeared to have the ability to tap into more diverse loneliness dimensions whereas others measured fewer dimensions. One specific item from all loneliness scales examined seemed to tap in the most domains of loneliness. An inverse curvilinear relationship was demonstrated between the number of close friendships and loneliness and psychological well-being. Emotional closeness to friends as well as network size and an increased number of friends were also indicated as important network characteristics in relation to improved levels of loneliness.

Conclusions: The SELSA-S may be the most appropriate tool to assess loneliness in older adults when wishing to measure loneliness resulting from deficits in specific social connections. Increasing focus on building and deepening emotionally close friendships as well as network size are social network characteristics which could improve the effectiveness of loneliness interventions in this age group.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: loneliness, well-being, mental health, older adults
Subjects: C800 Psychology
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2023 08:27
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 08:30

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics