Functional impairment is associated with greater loneliness

Loneliness and its relationship to objective and subjective health
Loneliness is an influential stressor related to poor self-reported health and various adverse health outcomes. Several studies have found a bidirectional relationship between loneliness and subjective and objective health outcomes. However, few longitudinal studies have examined loneliness and health over time. This study examined the dynamic associations between loneliness changes and changes in both objective (functional impairment) and subjective health (self-rated health (SRH)) in mid-to-late adulthood. 

Photo: Emi Svedberg

Three NEAR population studies: The Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging (SATSA), Ageing in Women and Men: A Longitudinal Study of Gender Differences in Health Behavior and Health among Elderly (GENDER), and Origin of Variances in the Oldest-Old: Octogenarian Twins (OCTO-Twin), were used to explore this.

Functional impairment is associated with greater loneliness
In a sample of 1939 individuals aged 50-96 years, adverse impacts of loneliness were observed in relation to subjective and objective health beginning at age 70. Moreover, both subjective and objective health were associated with loneliness after 82 years of age, but with differing patterns. Poorer subjective health (SRH) was associated with reduced ratings of loneliness, while poorer objective health (functional impairment) was associated with greater ratings of loneliness. In summary, this study suggests loneliness may develop later in life due to worsening health or limited mobility, which can interfere with social interactions.


Phillips DM, Finkel D, Petkus AJ, Munoz E, Pahlen S, Johnson W, Reynolds CA, Pedersen N. Longitudinal analyses indicate bidirectional associations between loneliness and health. Aging Ment Health. 2022; 1-9.