Older adult loneliness: myths and realities

P.A Dykstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic

248 Citations (Scopus)
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The focus in this paper is on the social domain of quality of life, and more particularly loneliness. The empirical literature on older adult loneliness is reviewed, thereby challenging three often-held assumptions that figure prominently in public debates on loneliness. The first assumption that loneliness is a problem specifically for older people finds only partial support. Loneliness is common only among the very old. The second assumption is that people in individualistic societies are most lonely. Contrary to this belief, findings show that older adults in northern European countries tend to be less lonely than those in the more familialistic southern European countries. The scarce data on Central and Eastern Europe suggest a high prevalence of older adult loneliness in those countries. The third assumption that loneliness has increased over the past decades finds no support. Loneliness levels have decreased, albeit slightly. The review notes the persistence of ageist attitudes, and underscores the importance of considering people’s frame of reference and normative orientation in analyses of loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Ageing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Change over time
  • Ageing
  • Cross-national comparison
  • Quality of life
  • Loneliness

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