A Closer Look at Loneliness: Why Do First-Generation Migrants Feel More Lonely Than Their Native Dutch Counterparts?

Rowan L. F. ten Kate*, Basak Bilecen, Nardi Steverink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
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Background and Objectives
Along with the current aging demographics in the Netherlands, the number of older first-generation migrants is also increasing. Despite studies suggesting a higher quantity of social contacts of migrants, loneliness is more common among migrants as compared to native Dutch. We theorize that migrants experience more emotional and social loneliness due to a lower satisfaction with social relationships and lower participation in social activities, respectively, compared to their native counterparts.

Research Design and Methods
We use data from Statistics Netherlands (N = 7,920) with first-generation migrants aged 40 years and older and their Dutch counterparts. Contact frequency, household composition, satisfaction with social relationships, relationship quality with the partner, and social activities, are used as main predictors and separate regression models for social and emotional loneliness are analyzed.

Compared to the native Dutch, first-generation migrants are both socially and emotionally more lonely. Migrants have a similar contact frequency as the native Dutch, but are less satisfied with their social relationships, which contributes to their higher emotional, social, and overall loneliness. Migrants engage less in social activities but this does not put them at additional risk of loneliness.

Discussion and Implications
Migrants experience more social and emotional loneliness and are less satisfied with their social relationships compared to their native counterparts. Interventions should focus on reducing both social and emotional loneliness among older migrants. Specific attention should be paid to fostering satisfying social interactions. Additionally, encouraging migrants to broaden their social network may reduce social loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-301
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Early online date16-Jan-2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2020


  • Immigrants
  • Social networks
  • Satisfaction
  • Social Isolation
  • Social loneliness
  • Emotional loneliness

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