Measuring Older Adult Loneliness across Countries

Lauren Newmyer, Ashton M. Verdery, Rachel Margolis, Leá Pessin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objectives: The topic of older adult loneliness commands increasing media and policy attention around the world. Are surveys of aging equipped to measure it? We assess the measurement of loneliness in large-scale aging studies in 31 countries by describing the available measures, testing correlations between them, and documenting their construct validity. Methods: We use data from several "sister studies"of aging adults around the world. In each country, we document available loneliness measures, test for measurement reliability by examining correlations between different measures of loneliness, and assess how these correlations differ by gender and age group. We then evaluate construct validity by estimating correlations between loneliness measures and theoretically hypothesized constructs related to loneliness: Living alone and not having a spouse. Results: There is substantial heterogeneity in available measures of loneliness across countries. Within countries with multiple measures, the correlations between measures are high (range 0.384-0.777, median 0.636). Although we find several statistically significant differences in these correlations by gender and age, the differences are small (gender: Range-0.098 to 0.081, median-0.026; age group: Range-0.194 to 0.092, median-0.003). Correlations between loneliness measures and living alone and being without a spouse are all positive, almost universally statistically significant, and similar in magnitude across countries, supporting construct validity. Discussion: This article establishes that even single-item measures of loneliness contribute meaningful information in diverse settings. Similar to the measurement of self-rated health, there are nuances to the measurement of older adult loneliness in different contexts, but it has reliable and consistent measurement properties within many countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1408-1414
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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