The Correlates of Loneliness

Loneliness, Relationships, and Health

Author(s): Chris Segrin, Tricia J. Burke and Terry Badger

Pp: 128-155 (28)

DOI: 10.2174/9781681080703116010009

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


Loneliness is a common but distressing psychological state in which actual levels of social contact fall below desired levels of contact. Loneliness is a stressful experience that motivates affiliation as a form of redress. However, when people are unsuccessful at forming the social connections that reduce loneliness, well-being and quality of life can suffer dramatically. For some people loneliness may stem from family of origin processes such as social learning or heritability. Loneliness is even possible in the context of romantic or marital relationships when the relationship exhibits markers of poor quality. In either context the lack of social integration puts lonely people at risk for a range of negative outcomes. In the domain of health related quality of life, loneliness has been conceptualized as a pathway to disease. Abundant research evidence indicates that loneliness represents a risk for poor cardiovascular fitness, poor immune functioning, psychological and physical health complications associated with cancer, chronic illness, and all-cause mortality. Numerous theoretical mechanisms have been posited to explain the relationship between loneliness and poor health including stress processes, degraded recuperative processes, and compromised health behaviors. Although study of the potential causal mechanisms by which loneliness may contribute to the development of health problems is still in its infancy, current research indicates that loneliness is best conceptualized as a psychological construct that, when chronic, has a serious potential for pathophysiological effects on the human body.

Keywords: Cancer, Cardiovascular health, Chronic illness, Family, Health, Immune fitness, Loneliness, Mortality, Romantic relationships, Social motives, Stress.

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