Fluctuations in loneliness due to changes in frequency of social interactions among older adults: a weekly based diary study

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OBJECTIVES: Loneliness functionally varies and is determined by the degree of interaction with others. We examined weekly fluctuations in reported loneliness as a function of frequency of social interactions in old age. We hypothesized that emotional and social components of loneliness would be related to different types of social relationships. DESIGN: Participants reported their feeling of loneliness and their social interaction quantity (frequency of meetings) via a weekly based diary, over 6 weeks. SETTING: Diary study. PARTICIPANTS: The study included 55 older adults with different dwelling arrangements (M = 73.4, SD = 6.97). MEASUREMENTS: Measures of Loneliness (the De Jong-Gierveld Loneliness Scale), Social Interaction and Contact, and sociodemographic parameters were used. RESULTS: Social and emotional loneliness fluctuated over the course of the 6-week study. Frequency of meeting friends was related to emotional loneliness and total feelings of loneliness. Frequency of meeting close/trusted figures was related to emotional loneliness which appeared the following week. Other variables were not associated with either changes in loneliness or its dimensions. CONCLUSIONS: Loneliness in old age is changeable. The emotional component of loneliness seems to be dominant in determining overall feelings of loneliness and is more sensitive to externally chosen social interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-303
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2023


  • emotional loneliness
  • fluctuation
  • loneliness
  • older adults
  • social interactions
  • social loneliness
  • weekly-based diary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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