Autonomy and loneliness–longitudinal within- and between-person associations among Swedish older adults

Georg Henning, Dikla Segel-Karpas, Pär Bjälkebring, Anne Ingeborg Berg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Loneliness is an important risk factor for mental and physical health over the life span. Little is known about psychosocial predictors and consequences of loneliness apart from social network characteristics. One important factor that may both prevent from, but also be affected by loneliness, is perceived autonomy. Method: In the present study, we investigated the longitudinal association of loneliness and autonomy over four years among participants of the Swedish Health, Aging and Retirement Transitions in Sweden (HEARTS) study (n = 5718, age 60–66 at baseline). We used a latent curve model with structured residuals, which distinguishes within- and between-person associations and includes cross-lagged parameters. Results: Higher levels of autonomy at baseline were associated with lower levels of loneliness, and increases in autonomy were associated with decreases in loneliness. When individuals felt more autonomous than usual, they also reported less loneliness. However, the cross-lagged paths were not significant, which means that autonomy did not predict loneliness over time on the within-person level, and loneliness did not predict autonomy over time. Conclusion: Our findings show that higher autonomy was related to lower loneliness on different analytical levels, but the direction of effects is unclear. More research is needed to understand the development of this association over the life span.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2416-2423
Number of pages8
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Loneliness
  • autonomy
  • quantitative methods and statistics
  • self-efficacy/coping
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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