Late-Life Loneliness in 11 European Countries: Results from the Generations and Gender Survey

Abstract

This study explores country differences in late-life loneliness in Europe among men and women and establishes the role of micro-level differences in socioeconomic status, health, and social variables in these patterns. We use cross-sectional, nationally representative data from the Generations and Gender Survey. The analysis comprises 33,832 Europeans aged 60–80 from 11 countries. A six-item short version of the de Jong-Gierveld Scale is used to measure loneliness, yet we employ a different method of calculating loneliness scores than in prior work. Findings show considerable between-country heterogeneity in late-life loneliness, especially among women. The rate of a quite severe level of loneliness is 30–55 % among men and women in Eastern Europe, compared with 10–20 % among their peers in Western and Northern Europe. Loneliness is strongly associated with lower socioeconomic status, poorer health, and not having a partner. More than half of the country variance in loneliness is mediated by health, partnership status, and socioeconomic disparities across countries. Differences in societal wealth and welfare and cultural norms may account for some of the unexplained country variance in loneliness.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a grant from the Research Council of Norway (Grant No. 228664). The NorLAG and LOGG surveys are financed by the Research Council of Norway (Grant Nos. 149564 and 168373), Ministry of Health and Care Services, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, NOVA and Statistics Norway. The LOGG and NorLAG datasets are part of the ACCESS Life Course infrastructure project funded by the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure at the Research Council of Norway (Grant No. 195403) and NOVA.

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Correspondence to Thomas Hansen.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3 Country characteristics
Table 4 Hierarchical multivariate regression on loneliness (0–12), by gender

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Hansen, T., Slagsvold, B. Late-Life Loneliness in 11 European Countries: Results from the Generations and Gender Survey. Soc Indic Res 129, 445–464 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-015-1111-6

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Keywords

  • Loneliness
  • Older adults
  • Europe
  • Generations and Gender Survey
  • Socioeconomic status