Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner


  • Elizabeth A. Majka
  • John T. CacioppoEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_811



A subjective sense of social isolation produces feelings of loneliness or social pain (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008). This distressing constellation of feelings and emotions results from a discrepancy between one’s actual and desired social relationships. Thus, lonely individuals are not satisfied with the quality of their actual social relationships, leaving them lacking a sense of social inclusion and belonging. Not to be confused with objective social isolation or a low quantity of social relationships, individuals can feel lonely when alone just as much as they can feel lonely when surrounded by a sea of people. Identifying individuals who suffer from loneliness is important, since over time loneliness can seriously impair physical, cognitive, and psychological health.

Loneliness is typically assessed using self-report items assessing the degree to which individuals endorse statements describing thoughts and feelings commonly...

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References and Readings

  1. Aarsen, M., & Jylha, M. (2011). Onset of loneliness in older adults: Results of a 28 year prospective study. European Journal of Ageing, 8, 31–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  4. Cacioppo, J. T., & Patrick, B. (2008). Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  5. Masi, C. M., Chen, H., Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2011). A meta-analysis of interventions to reduce loneliness. Personality and Social Psychological Review, 15, 219–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA