Background Loneliness a growing public health concern. This is particularly so in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which has highlighted the detrimental psychosocial consequences of loneliness. Loneliness is a particularly pervasive problem among young adults, but despite this, most research examining loneliness is among older adults. Loneliness is a known risk factor for poor health and personal wellbeing. However, the extent to which other aspects of social wellbeing (e.g., isolation, social support) may mitigate the relationship between loneliness and personal wellbeing is unclear. Loneliness is often used interchangeably with related, yet distinct aspects of social wellbeing, such as isolation. Therefore, it is difficult to differentiate factors that relate to loneliness, factors that relate to other components of social wellbeing, and the possible interactions between these constructs. Consequently, we aim to examine the interplay of loneliness and isolation on personal wellbeing.
Methods We make use of cross-sectional sample of 965 young people aged 16–24 from the 2018 wave of the Community Life Survey to conduct regression-based analyses. This allows us to evaluate for a direct effect of loneliness on personal wellbeing, and for an interaction effect between loneliness and isolation to determine if the presence of both loneliness and isolation is predictive of poorer wellbeing. Finally, we use moderated regression to assess whether individual, social, and community level factors influence the relationship between loneliness and personal wellbeing.
Results Preliminary results identify that loneliness is consistently associated with poorer personal wellbeing among young people. Isolation neither predicts wellbeing, nor moderates associations between loneliness and wellbeing. Factors such as trust in one’s neighbourhood, not acting as a carer, and being a fulltime student were associated with greater wellbeing. At the individual level, a moderating effect of sex was found, and social factors (e.g., being able to count on friends) moderated the association between loneliness and wellbeing.
Conclusion Results suggests that the presence of both loneliness and isolation does not increase risk of poor personal wellbeing among young people. Rather, the subjective experience of loneliness is independently detrimental to wellbeing. Our results also identified that being of female gender was associated with increased risk of loneliness impacting on personal wellbeing, but that strong emotional support may act as a protective factor against loneliness, and therefore improve personal wellbeing. It is also important to foster community trust and engagement to improve wellbeing, and that young people with caring responsibilities may be particularly at risk of low personal wellbeing.
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