Journal of Public Health

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 613–624 | Cite as

Loneliness among older European adults: results from the survey of health, aging and retirement in Europe

  • Maria Vozikaki
  • Angeliki Papadaki
  • Manolis Linardakis
  • Anastas Philalithis
Original Article



Previous research has suggested that individuals are mostly prone to loneliness in their later years of life because of exposure to several risk factors typical of old age. The current study aims to examine possible demographic, health and social determinants of loneliness among older adults in Europe.


Data on a nationally representative sample of 5074 Europeans aged ≥ 65 years were drawn from the first wave of the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE, 2004/2005). Frequency of feelings of loneliness was examined according to adverse health conditions, stressful life events and social isolation indicators.


Female gender, older age, lower socioeconomic status, living unpartnered, being childless and having no activity involvement were significantly associated with frequent feelings of loneliness (p < 0.001). The proportion of the respondents who declared enduring loneliness most of the time compared with none of the time was significantly higher among Southern Europeans relative to their Northern counterparts (p < 0.001). Recent departure of offspring from the parental nest was a significant predictor of loneliness in both the second (ORs = 2.08; 95% CI 1.24–3.48) and the third (ORs = 1.75; 95% CI 1.03–2.96) multiple regression models.


In this sample of older Europeans, several demographic characteristics, specific adverse health conditions, stressful life events and social isolation indicators were associated with feelings of loneliness. Policy initiatives for the alleviation of loneliness in older age should therefore aim at improving psychosocial and health-related difficulties faced by this population.


Older adults Loneliness Health Social isolation SHARE study 



Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe


European Depression Scale


Activities and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living


Compliance with ethical standards

Research involving human participants

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Ethics Committee of the University of Crete and with 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Vozikaki
    • 1
  • Angeliki Papadaki
    • 2
  • Manolis Linardakis
    • 1
  • Anastas Philalithis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of CreteHeraklionGreece
  2. 2.Centre for Exercise, Nutrition & Health Sciences, School for Policy StudiesUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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