Since the 1980s, most researchers have agreed on the concept of social and emotional loneliness as an unacceptable and negatively experienced discrepancy between realized and desired interpersonal relationships. For other researchers, existential loneliness stems from the realization that a human being is fundamentally alone, with the accompanying emptiness, sadness and longing. This paper examines whether instruments to measure these conceptualizations indicate a multidimensional concept.
The 2019 observation of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (N = 1316; age 61-101; 52% women) included five direct questions about loneliness, the 11-item De Jong Gierveld social and emotional loneliness scale, and fourteen items from the translated Existential Loneliness Questionnaire. Confirmatory factor analysis was conducted in Mplus.
Five factors were observed: direct questions, social and emotional loneliness, and loneliness in relationships and meaninglessness in life. The intercorrelations among all five factors were positive. Emotional loneliness correlated most strongly with direct questions.
Loneliness is multifaceted and means that one is not embedded in a personal network, misses closeness and intimacy, and lacks meaning in life. The emotional loneliness items most closely represent what people mean when they report loneliness.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America.